A U.S. federal appeals court struck down Texas’s voter-ID law on racial-discrimination grounds Wednesday, handing a major victory to voting-rights activists ahead of the 2016 election.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Senate Bill 14 disproportionately burdened black and Hispanic voters, thereby violating the federal Voting Rights Act’s ban on racial discrimination in American elections.
“The record shows that drafters and proponents of SB 14 were aware of the likely disproportionate effect of the law on minorities, and that they nonetheless passed the bill without adopting a number of proposed ameliorative measures that might have lessened this impact,” Judge Catharina Haynes wrote for the majority.
Most cases in the federal appeals courts are heard by three-judge panels. One such panel previously sided with the plaintiffs last August. But the Fifth Circuit agreed to rehear the case, Veasey v. Abbott, in a rare en banc hearing with its entire complement of 15 judges in March.
Nine of those judges sided with lower courts on its findings of that the law had a discriminatory effect. The Fifth Circuit also sent back the plaintiffs’ claims legislators had a racially discriminatory purpose to the lower courts for further consideration and rejected claims the law imposed an unconstitutional poll tax.