State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

Texas voter ID law blocked by federal court

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Aug 30, 2012 8:56 PM

Federal justices say the state of Texas didn’t show a new voter ID law wouldn’t put an undue burden on minority voters, especially poor Latinos and African Americans, reports the Washington Post:

Evidence submitted by Texas to prove that its law did not discriminate was “unpersuasive, invalid, or both,” wrote David. S. Tatel, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, in the panel’s 56-page opinion.

The ruling will likely have political implications in the coming elections. Republicans and Democrats have been arguing over whether increasingly tough voter ID laws discriminate against African Americans and Hispanics.

Texas Attorney General Gregg Abbott said that the state will appeal Thursday’s ruling to the Supreme Court, which is the next stop in a voting rights case.


Will this matter for Pennsylvania?  Not according to Witold Walczak, legal director of the ACLU of PA, one of the challengers in the voter ID case poised for a hearing at the state Supreme Court.  Witold spoke to PhillyNow:

He notes that Sections 2 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act put the burden on different parties—when challenging Section 5 of the VRA, the state has to prove their case; under Section 2, the plaintiffs do. “The “burden” of proof shifts between the two, i.e., under strict the burden is on the state, whereas under most other standards the burden is on the challenger,” Walczak writes by email, noting it “makes a huge difference.”

Hence, the opinion’s statement that, specifically, “Texas has failed to make this showing—in fact, record evidence demonstrates that, if implemented, [Texas Voter ID] will have a retrogressive affect.”

This, too, was a factor in the ACLU’s unsuccessful challenge of the Pennsylvania law earlier this summer. At that time, explained Walczak, the Pennsylvania Constitutional judgment was based upon a “deference” standard, rather than a “strict scrutiny” standard, the former of which, applied in the earlier Pennsylvania case, puts the burden on the law’s challengers.

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