Appeals panel restores Texas voter ID law

Texas’s on-again off-again voter ID law is back in effect — for now.

A three-judge panel of a federal appeals court on Tuesday stayed a recent lower court ruling that had blocked the law as racially discriminatory.

Judges Jerry Smith and Jennifer Elrod wrote that Texas is likely to succeed on the merits in showing that its modified voter ID law, passed earlier this year, is not discriminatory. The law allows those without acceptable photo ID to vote if they sign an affidavit swearing that a “reasonable impediment” stopped them from getting ID.

Last month, U.S. District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos ruled that the modified ID law didn’t fix problems with the original law, passed in 2011, that made it racially discriminatory.

Given the makeup of the three-judge panel, the result isn’t surprising. Both Smith and Elrod are Republican appointees, and both voted last year to approve the stricter version of the ID law.

The full 5th Circuit, which mostly upheld Gonzales Ramos in finding the previous version of the law racially discriminatory, will consider the new law on the merits.

But Tuesday’s ruling is likely to mean the law is in effect for this fall’s elections. It could even keep the law in place for next year’s midterms, if the 5th Circuit delays a ruling.

That could create an additional barrier for the roughly one million Texas voters displaced by Hurricane Harvey, who already could face obstacles to casting a ballot.

Photo: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton

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