By Erik Eckholmaug, The New York Times
A federal appeals panel ruled Wednesday that a strict voter identification law in Texas discriminated against black and Hispanic voters and violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965 — a decision that election experts called an important step toward defining the future reach of the landmark law.
The state of federal voting protections has been uncertain since 2013, when the Supreme Court blocked the act’s most potent enforcement tool, a requirement that numerous states, including Texas, with histories of discrimination receive federal clearance before changing election rules. The Texas ID case — along with another in Texas challenging its redistricting plans and a case in North Carolina over broader changes in election rules — has been closely watched in legal circles to see how courts will interpret the remaining provisions of the landmark federal law.
Wednesday’s decision, hailed by civil rights groups, affirmed an important part of a lower-court ruling. But the appeals panel also said the lower court must re-examine its conclusion last year that Texas adopted the law with a discriminatory purpose. That conclusion could have led to a restoration of federal oversight over Texas voting laws.
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