A federal judge sided with the Department of Justice after it accused Texas of violating a court-ordered agreement to soften the state’s voter ID law, which an appeals court previously ruled discriminatory.
U.S. District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos issued an order Tuesday instructing Texas to fix its voter education program so it matches the court-approved language weakening the ID law. The state will have to re-issue its press releases concerning its ID requirements, edit its posters at polling sites, update its website, and provide to the challengers in the lawsuit copies of any new advertisements or scripts regarding voter education, according to the order.
After a majority of the full 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in July that the 2011 ID law had the effect of discriminating against minority voters, Texas and the challengers in lawsuit — including the Department of Justice — reached an agreement softening the ID requirement. Voters who don’t have one of the forms of identification required by the law will still be able to cast ballots in the November election if they sign an affidavit declaring they had a “reasonable impediment” in obtaining the required ID, and show another form of identification with their name and address.
The issue the court dealt with this week was raised by the Department of Justice in a motion earlier this month pointing out that the state was telling voters they could use the affidavit option it they “have not obtained” and “cannot obtain” the required ID. That language was harsher than the “reasonable impediment” language in the initial agreement, the Department of Justice argued.
The judge also heard this week a motion filed by the private groups involved in challenging the law. They were alarmed by an interview given by Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart gave to the Houston Press, in which he suggested that voters who use the affidavit would be investigated by his office. Judge Ramos on Tuesday denied their motion.
Read Tuesday’s order below: