Two rulings on Thursday evening blocked voter I.D. laws in Wisconsin and Texas, deciding that the regulations were deliberately meant to lower voter turnout. The decisions come less than a month before Election Day.
These two laws were some of the harshest enacted in the last few years, and the courts expressed concern over their impact on minority voters. But the rulings are not quite a complete blow against the GOP-backed measures.
Wisconsin’s had been through several rounds of appeals before the Supreme Court blocked it, and confusion over the current status of the law was key to Thursday’s ruling. Already-disseminated absentee ballots did not mandate a copy of a photo I.D., but state officials insisted that they would not count ones submitted without one. In a dissent, Justice Samuel Alito agreed that the confusion over absentee ballots was troubling, but did not think that the lower courts had “demonstrably erred” in upholding the law.
The Texas judge, Nelva Gonzales Ramos, was more direct, ruling that the law in question “creates an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote, has an impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans, and was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose.”
She said that the “racially charged” law was an “unconstitutional poll tax.” More than 600,000 black people and Latino people in Texas are thought to lack a proper photo I.D.