Can’t vote with a bus pass? TX voter ID law struck down over confusion


By Jon Cassidy |

HOUSTON — District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos, an appointee of President Obama who struck down Texas’ voter ID law Thursday, had plenty of reasons for what she did.

OBJECTION: Attorney General Greg Abbott plans to appeal the ruling that struck down Texas’ voter ID law.

The way the American legal system works, if a judge doesn’t much care for a precedent affecting her case, she better have a lot of reasons to say that earlier case was nothing like the case before her.

In a 2007 case called Crawford v. Marion, the Supreme Court voted 6-3 that an Indiana voter ID law was “a neutral, nondiscriminatory regulation of voting procedure.”

So Gonzales Ramos needed a bunch of reasons why Texas’ voter ID law was so totally different from Indiana’s you couldn’t even say the Indiana ruling applied.

And she also had to run through a series of other appellate rulings upholding voter ID laws in other states and explain why Texas is just totally different.

Here are a few of those reasons:

  • Some states include IDs issued by a “federally recognized Indian tribe” on their lists of acceptable identification, but Texas left that off.
  • Somebody testified in the Texas case that he thought “a metro card would be sufficient” to vote, which allegedly proved “registered voters were confused about the requirement.”
  • At some offices “capable” of issuing birth certificates, “the availability of birth certificates at a reduced charge was not disclosed.”
  • One of the forms used to obtain one of the alternate forms of ID was not available in Spanish.
  • The mobile centers that existed for the sole purpose of providing alternate voter ID to the theoretically disenfranchised weren’t announced far enough in advance.

Then there was the more substantive reason given by Gonzales Ramos. She noted that in the Indiana case, there weren’t any actual disenfranchised voters involved, nor any good evidence they existed.

In the precedent, “the Court was confronted with sparse evidence,” she writes. “An expert report was deemed unreliable and the number of voters potentially disenfranchised in that case was estimated at 43,000 or 1 (percent) of eligible voters. Here, Plaintiffs’ experts were abundantly qualified, produced meticulously prepared figures regarding voters who lack … ID, and that number is estimated at 608,470, or 4.5 (percent) of registered (not just eligible) voters.”

That’s one way of putting it. In the Indiana case, the trial judge rejected “as utterly incredible and unreliable” an expert’s report that up to 989,000 registered voters in Indiana had ID problems. Gonzales Ramos, on the other hand, chose to believe the very large numbers she was presented, despite some very convincing work by Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office disputing them.

Abbott’s office went through the names and found that 330,377 of those produced by the Department of Justice were over the age of 65 and eligible to vote by mail without ID. The office found hundreds of thousands more who possessed other forms of acceptable ID.

Hilariously, some of the names included on the government’s list of people who couldn’t prove their identity included some rather well-known figures, among them former U.S. Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Phil Gramm, state Sen. Leticia Van De Putte and former President George W. Bush.

State Rep. Ferdinand “Trey” Fischer testified at trial that his mother was one the people whose lack of ID would prevent her from voting, although that was later proven untrue.

Hans von Spakovsky, an election law expert with the Heritage Foundation, said the evidence from actual elections conducted under voter ID laws disproves the theoretical disenfranchisement.

“The implementation of a voter ID law in Texas has done nothing to suppress voter turnout across the state,” he writes. “Some rural counties, such as Webb County, experienced voter turnouts in 2013 that were almost 10 times higher than the 2011 election. Urban counties—with large minority populations—containing and surrounding Texas’s major cities also saw an increase in voter turnout in 2013. This delegitimizes claims that voter ID laws are likely to negatively affect poor and minority voters. Instead, since the implementation of voter ID in Texas, turnout and registration totals have actually increased quite dramatically.”

Abbott plans to appeal the ruling.

Contact Jon Cassidy at or @jpcassidy000.