POSTED: Thursday, August 30, 2012 - 1:49pm
UPDATED: Monday, December 31, 2012 - 11:06am
WASHINGTON (CNN) — A federal appeals court in Washington Thursday struck down the Texas voter ID law requiring photos for voters at the polls, calling it racially discriminatory.
The decision is a major victory for the Obama administration and its Democratic allies, which had challenged the law.
Republican Gov. Rick Perry signed the voter ID measure into law last year, but it had yet not gone into effect because the federal Voting Rights Act requires changes in Texas voting laws to be pre-cleared by the U.S. Justice Department.
Attorney General Eric Holder denied the pre-clearance of the measure in March, concluding that Texas failed to show the law will not have "the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race."
The three-judge panel agreed.
Although the law provides for approved voter registration certificates with no photo as acceptable for voting in certain circumstances, the court said the law imposes "strict unforgiving burdens on the poor." The court noted the requirements will fall heavily on African-Americans and Hispanics, who make up a disproportionate percentage of the poor in Texas.
The panel of judges for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia also said it was ruling only on the Texas law, and not issuing a statement about other state voting laws. It noted the Justice Department had approved a Georgia voter ID law in which the state promised to provide free photo ID cards to citizens who request them.
The ruling comes as another three-judge panel in Washington is hearing arguments this week on a similar law passed in South Carolina. Republican-dominated legislatures say such laws are designed to eliminate voter fraud. Democrats claim there is no voter fraud issue, and that the laws are designed to reduce voting by poor minorities.
The Texas law said those who are 65 or older, disabled or expect to be absent on Election Day may vote by mail without presenting identification.
Earlier this month, a state court in Pennsylvania approved a voter ID law requiring photo identification at the polls.