Thursday, July 21, 2016

Federal judges rule against Texas, Wisconsin voter ID laws; ACLU sues Kansas over rule change

Federal judges this week ruled against voter-identification laws in Texas and Wisconsin that critics say are barriers to people more likely to vote Democratic. Also, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against Kansas over a rule change passed last week that would throw out up to 50,000 votes cast by people who registered at the Department of Motor Vehicles, where proof of citizenship is not required to register to vote.

The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that "Texas’ voter identification law violates the U.S. law prohibiting racial discrimination in elections," Jim Malewitz reports for The Texas Tribune. The court ruled that the state's "2011 voter ID law—which stipulates the types of photo identification election officials can and cannot accept at the polls—does not comply with the Voting Rights Act. Texas is among nine states categorized as requiring 'strict photo ID,' and its list of acceptable forms is the shortest."

Because not every Texas county has an office that generates driver's license or alternate photo IDs, the law has a disproportionate impact on rural areas.

On Tuesday a federal district judge in Milwaukee ruled "that Wisconsin voters without photo identification can cast ballots by swearing to their identity," Patrick Marley and Jason Stein report for The Journal Sentinel in Milwaukee. The decision "creates a pathway for voters with difficulties getting IDs who have been unable to cast ballots under the state's 2011 voter ID law."

"The ruling will allow voters to use affidavits instead of IDs to vote in the Nov. 8 presidential election," Marley and Stein write. "But this new system will not be in place for the Aug. 9 primary for congressional and state legislative races because Adelman determined election officials needed more time to implement it."

The ACLU said in its lawsuit against Kansas Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach that "the dual voting system established by his office last week violates a previous court ruling," Bryan Lowry reports for The Wichita Eagle. "A state panel approved a temporary rule last week to allow more than 17,000 Kansans, who registered to vote at DMV offices without providing proof of citizenship, to vote in federal elections this August and November under the federal motor voter law." The Kansas State Rules and Regulations Board said those votes wouldn't count. The number of votes that would be tossed out could reach 50,000 by the presidential election.

"The move was meant to satisfy a federal court order," Lowry writes. "But the ACLU contends that blocking these voters from state and local elections runs afoul of a previous ruling by a Shawnee County judge that Kobach lacks the authority to create a dual voting system."

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