Texas’s voter ID law has been having a pretty bad time in the courts. On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos found that the state’s new S.B. 5 law, passed in June, is still invalid, because its predecessor law was passed with discriminatory intent. But Judge Ramos went even further than simply striking down the law—implying that renewed federal supervision of Texas voting laws may be necessary, an arrangement that hasn’t existed since 2013, when the Supreme Court struck down a key portion of the Voting Rights Act.
That predecessor, S.B. 14, was passed in 2011 and has since been a mainstay in Texas courts. The law required an authorized photo ID—driver’s license, passport, military identification, or gun permit—a requirement that Ramos and appeals courts have ruled multiple times to have a discriminatory effect on people of color who may not have access to those forms of identification. Ramos also ruled that the law was drafted with the intent of discrimination, a ruling that she has held through multiple iterations of the law in court.
When lawmakers tried to sidestep the court’s ruling by making a slightly more lax law in S.B. 5, Ramos’s court continued to hear cases on the voter-ID initiative. In the court’s order on Wednesday, Ramos declared that “discriminatory intent strongly favors a wholesale injunction against the enforcement of any vestige of the voter photo ID law.” In essence, Ramos ruled that because the original voter ID law in Texas was implemented with the purpose of reducing the voting strength of people of color, all connected future laws would be subject to scrutiny and injunction if they fail to show that they won’t discriminate. That ruling marks the fifth overall injunction against the Texas voter ID law in federal courts, and the third time it’s made its way through Ramos’s courtroom.