Friday, August 12, 2016

Texas eases voter ID law; court blocks ruling allowing Wisconsin voters to cast ballots without ID

Courts this week made drastically different rulings on controversial voter ID laws in Texas and Wisconsin, reported here previously. A federal appeals court ruled last month that the Texas law violates the U.S. law prohibiting racial discrimination in elections, while in Wisconsin a federal district judge ruled that voters without photo identification can cast ballots by swearing to their identity. Republicans favor voter-ID laws, saying they cut down on voter fraud, but Democrats say there is scant evidence of voter impersonation and the laws make voting more difficult for minorities—who are more likely to vote Democratic.

On Wednesday a federal judge said "it won't be mandatory for Texans to present an ID in order to vote in the November general election," Khorri Atkinson reports for The Texas Tribune. "Under the agreement reached by Texas officials and groups suing the state, anyone without an ID can sign a declaration stating they are a U.S. citizen and present proof of residence, such as a utility bill, bank statement or paycheck."

An appeals court on Wednesday blocked the ruling in Wisconsin, saying the judge went too far in allowing voters to cast ballots without an ID, Jason Stein and Patrick Marley report for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The three-member panel, all appointed by Republican presidents, wrote: "Our most recent decision in this case concluded that anyone who is eligible to vote in Wisconsin, but cannot obtain a qualifying photo ID with reasonable effort, is entitled to an accommodation that will permit him or her to cast a ballot. But instead of attempting to identify these voters, or to identify the kinds of situations in which the state’s procedures fall short, the district court issued an injunction that permits any registered voter to declare by affidavit that reasonable effort would not produce a photo ID—even if the voter has never tried to secure one."

Stein and Marley write, "Part of the voter ID law remains blocked because of a separate ruling in another federal trial court in recent weeks. Voters should keep following the news—the rules could change again between now and the Nov. 8 presidential election."

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