Federal Judge Approves Of Agreement To Soften Texas’ Voter ID Law

A federal judge approved Wednesday of an agreement reached between the state of Texas and the parties that sued over its voter ID law that will soften that restriction ahead of November’s election.

U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos greenlit the terms presented to her court last week by Texas and the challengers, while pushing back on some attempts by Texas to tweak the agreement after the deal had been reached, according to court documents. She also requested that Texas and the challengers work out the details of the training and education program to instruct poll workers and voters of the softened law’s new protocols. She ordered that they present that plan to the court later this week.

The proceedings come after a majority of the full 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, one of the most conservative courts in the country, said Texas’ voter ID law violated the federal Voting Rights Act because it had a discriminatory effect on minority voters. The Texas Attorney General’s office has since floated the possibility that it still may appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.

Texas had been sued for the 2011 law—which the state was only able to implement after the Supreme Court ruling Shelby County v. Holder gutted a Voting Rights Act requirement that Texas get federal approval for changes to its election policies— by individuals as well as various civil rights and voter advocacy groups. The Department of Justice also joined in the lawsuit.

Under the terms of the agreement Ramos approved, voters in the state will be able sign a statement affirming their identity and their inability to show one of the forms of required ID. In lieu of one of the forms of required ID, voters will then be able to show a valid voter registration certificate, a certified birth certificate, a current utility bill, a bank statement, a government check, a paycheck or any other government document that displays the voter’s name and address.

After reaching the agreement last week, Texas sought to alter it in order to stress the agreement was just an interim remedy to the law. The state further requested that new language be included in the statement to be signed by voters, emphasizing they are swearing under penalty of perjury that they face an impediment to attaining the required forms of ID. The state also asked that language be added to the agreement asserting its legal rights in defending the law.

The court on Wednesday denied the two first requests, but allowed the inclusion of language permitting Texas to continue to oppose legal challenges to the law.

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