A big win for the White House and critics of voter ID laws: A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that Texas' strict law discriminates against minorities and the poor and must be weakened before the November elections. The ruling was a striking election-year victory for President Obama's administration, which took the unusual step of bringing the Justice Department into Texas to fight the case, reports the AP. US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the ruling affirmed that the 2011 law—which Texas enforced in three elections—abridged the right to vote based on race or color. Elections experts widely agree that the Texas law, which accepted concealed handgun licenses but not college IDs, was the toughest in the nation.
Voters must still show identification at the polls in Texas under the decision by the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals, which is regarded as one of the most conservative panels in the country. But a lower court is now instructed to devise a way for Texas to accommodate those who cannot. The 9-6 decision agreed with a lower court ruling that Texas had violated the federal Voting Rights Act. Elections experts have testified that Hispanics were twice as likely and blacks three times more likely than whites to lack an acceptable ID under the law. They also said lower-income Texas residents were more likely to lack necessary documents to obtain a free state voting ID. Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton expressed disappointment and must now work with opponents on putting a Band-Aid on the law with less than four months until Election Day. (Read more Texas stories.)