A federal appeals court struck down Texas' voter ID law on Wednesday in a victory for the Obama administration, which had taken the unusual step of bringing the weight of the U.S. Justice Department to fight new Republican-backed mandates at the ballot box.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the 2011 law carries a "discriminatory effect" and violates one of the remaining provisions of the Voting Rights Act -- the heart of which was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013.
Texas was allowed to use the voter ID law during the 2014 elections, thereby requiring an estimated 13.6 million registered Texas voters to have a photo ID.
Section 2 of the landmark civil rights law required opponents to meet a far higher threshold and prove that Texas intentionally discriminated against minority voters.
"We conclude that the district court did not reversibly err in determining that SB 14 violates Section 2 by disparately impacting minority voters," the court wrote.
The Justice Department had argued that the Texas law, considered one of the toughest voter ID measures in the country, would prevent as many as 600,000 voters from casting a ballot because they lacked one of seven forms of approved ID.
After the ruling, Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said the state's Voter ID law will remain in effect.
"Today’s ruling was a victory on the fundamental question of Texas’ right to protect the integrity of our elections and the state’s common sense Voter ID law remains in effect. I’m particularly pleased the panel saw through and rejected the plaintiffs’ claim that our law constituted a ‘poll tax.’ The intent of this law is to protect the voting process in Texas, and we will continue to defend this important safeguard for all Texas voters," said Paxton in a statement.
Gov. Greg Abbott also issued a statement saying the state would continue to fight to require identification at the polls.
"In light of ongoing voter fraud, it is imperative that Texas has a voter ID law that prevents cheating at the ballot box. Texas will continue to fight for its voter ID requirement to ensure the integrity of elections in the Lone Star State," said Abbott.
Finally, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick shared his thoughts on the appeals court ruling.
"As joint author of Texas Voter ID law, I strongly disagree with the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, which rejected a portion of that law. Texas' Voter ID law was passed by the legislature with the intent of preserving the integrity of the voting process. There was never any intention of preventing anyone from voting who is legally qualified to do so. It was designed to make sure that every vote that is cast is done so lawfully," said Patrick in a statement.
A lower court had previously found that the voter ID was passed with the intent of discriminating against minorities. In striking down the Texas measure, however, the New Orleans-based appeals court did not find the voter ID requirement to be the equivalent of a poll tax.