The Texas House on Tuesday tentatively approved legislation to overhaul the state’s embattled voter identification law, moving it one step closer to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk.
Senate Bill 5 would in several ways relax what some had called the nation’s most stringent ID requirements for voters — a response to court findings that the current law discriminated against black and Latino voters.
The 95-54 vote followed a six-hour debate that saw fierce pushback from Democrats, who argued the legislation wouldn’t go far enough to expand ballot access and contains provisions that might discourage some Texans from going to the polls. Democrats proposed a host of changes through amendments, a few of which surprisingly wriggled through….
Last year, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Texas lawmakers discriminated against minority voters by enacting the 2011 law. U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos upped the ante in April, ruling the state discriminated on purpose. That raised the possibility she could invoke a section of the Voting Rights Act to place Texas under federal oversight of its election laws — a process called preclearance.
The state’s lawyers want to point to SB 5 next month when they return to Ramos’ Corpus Christi court for a hearing on how to remedy the voting violations. Republican leaders hope she will accept the new law and refrain from putting Texas under preclearance.
“SB 5 addresses every situation that the courts have found in six years of litigation,” King said.
Ramos temporarily softened the ID rules for the 2016 elections, and Huffman’s legislation largely follows its lead. It would allow people without photo ID to vote if they presented alternate forms of ID and signed affidavits swearing a “reasonable impediment” kept them from obtaining what was otherwise required.