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A federal court has rejected a Texas law that would have required voters to show a photo ID before allowing them to cast a ballot, saying the measure would effectively discriminate against racial minorities and the poor.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., said the Texas law — passed by the state's Republican-dominated Legislature in 2011 but not yet enacted — "imposes strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor, and racial minorities in Texas."
Strict photo ID laws are in force in seven states and pending in two others, including Texas. Many other states require some form of identification to vote.
The judges sided with critics who have argued that the requirement would disenfranchise many minority voters who are less likely to have photo identification.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has vowed to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. He says Thursday's ruling is "wrong on the law," and that the requirement for photo IDs is needed to prevent election fraud and impersonation.
NPR's Wade Goodwyn reports that the judges determined that the witnesses presented by the state of Texas to support the law were "unreliable" and their methodology "unsound." Goodwyn says:
"Because of the state's history of voting discrimination, it fell upon Texas to prove that its restrictive voter ID law did not tilt the playing field against minorities."
The Houston Chronicle quotes the judicial panel as concluding that the costs of obtaining photo IDs would "fall most heavily on the poor and that a disproportionately high percentage of African-Americans and Hispanics in Texas live in poverty."
According to the newspaper, about 80 Texas counties — particularly those in low-income areas — have no driver's license offices, which would make it difficult for many voters to obtain a photo ID.