Opinion: That Moment When a Federal District Court Rules Texas Election Law Is Racist

In 2012 the conservative majority ensconced in the U.S. Supreme Court decided that racism in America is non-existent and used that assessment to “gut a key provision of the Voting Rights Act” unleashing a veritable flood of voter suppression laws. That ruling gave primarily Republican-controlled Southern states carte blanche to enact voting laws that specifically targeted minority (read Black) communities for what many pundits consider 21st Century Jim Crow laws.

There have been several studies and federal court rulings calling the Republican state-enacted election procedures “intentional voting discrimination” targeting African Americans. On Monday evening a Texas federal district court handed down a “brief order” stating that Texas’ voter ID law was “passed with a discriminatory intent in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.” In simpler terms, the district judges ruled the Texas voter suppression law is “deliberately racist.”

As noted above, although the conservatives on the High Court eliminated a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, specifically abolishing the provision that “certain” (Confederate) states did not have to submit new election procedures to federal authorities before they were put into effect, a separate provision remained in effect. That provision permits states, primarily Republican-controlled Southern states, to be brought back under federal supervision if they engage in “intentional voting discrimination;” exactly what the Federal District Court ruled Texas Republicans were found to be guilty of. However, it is certainly something that will never happen with a Southern racist Republican leading the Justice Department and a newly emboldened conservative majority on the Supreme Court. The federal district court ruling will certainly be appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Fifth Circuit has already ruled less than a year ago that Texas’ discriminatory election law had a greater impact on minority voters than on white voters. In fact, that ruling made the Texas’ voting law illegal under the Voting Rights Act so any appeal, if upheld in the appellate court will be appealed to the new conservative majority Supreme Court.

As Ian Millhiser at ThinkProgress noted in citing a voting rights expert Rick Hasen, the Monday evening ruling is significant if the Fifth Circuit upholds the District Court “brief order.” According to Mr. Hasen: “If the district court’s order is upheld on appeal, it would be grounds for throwing out the entire law (and not just softening it though an affidavit requirement, etc.).” In simpler terms, the Federal District Court ruled that Texas Republicans’ voter suppression law is “deliberately racist” and should be summarily abolished.

The Federal District Court’s order in Veasey v. Abbott noted “several factors suggesting” that the law was enacted for the explicit purpose of discriminating against African-American and Latino voters. One of those factors included, besides the law’s disparate impact on African-American and Latino voters:

The fact that [Republican[ state lawmakers rushed the state’s voter ID law through the legislative process without the usual committee analysis, debate, and substantive consideration of amendments. Texas has become a majority-minority state with polarized voting patterns allowing the suppression of the overwhelmingly Democratic votes of African–Americans and Latinos to provide an Anglo partisan advantage.”

In plain-speak, the court said that Texas’ Republicans used race as a substitute for partisan affiliation with a voter suppression law created explicitly to disproportionately target African-Americans and Latinos for the sole purpose of “protect[ing] Republican rule.”

The District Court Judges did not buy into the Texas Republican claim that they passed the voter suppression law to prevent massive voter fraud; not to disenfranchise voters of color. The court said, “the evidence shows a tenuous relationship between those rationales and the actual terms of the bill.” Or in street vernacular, the court said Texas Republicans are liars.

The court apparently was aware that out of over 20 million votes cast in the ten years before the voter suppression law was passed, there were only two people convicted of the kind of voter fraud that is supposedly targeted by voter ID. The kind of voter ID laws passed in Texas under supervision and direction of the Koch brothers’ legislative arm, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) are a common method of voter suppression embraced by ALEC-controlled “Republican legislatures meant to disproportionately target voters of color.”

According to data already cited by the extremely conservative Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals that will hear an anticipated appeal; “Blacks were 1.78 times more likely than whites, and Latinos 2.42 times more likely than whites, to lack voter ID.”

It is likely that the latest ruling holding that Republican legislatures are specifically targeting people of color for vote suppression, whatever encouraging news for voting rights advocates and Texas minorities, may be very short lived. Regardless that the Fifth Circuit already ruled that Texas’ Republican election laws violated the Voting Rights Act, Texas Republicans continued their racist assault unabated because as Republicans across the country have demonstrated time and again, they hate democracy with the same intensity as the Koch brothers’ legislative arm ALEC.

h/t IanMillhiser