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May 29, 2017

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US court overturns Texas voter ID legislation ahead of election

WASHINGTON -- A U.S. court overturned a law Thursday requiring Texans to present photo identification to vote, saying it could marginalize poor and minority voters two months before presidential elections.

The controversial electoral law had been suspended by U.S. President Barack Obama's administration on the grounds that it would encourage racial discrimination in the electoral process.

The court ruled that the Republican-led southern state provided evidence that was "unpersuasive, invalid or both" in its effort to show the election law did not discriminate against ethnic minority voters.

"That law will almost certainly have retrogressive effects: it imposes strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor, and racial minorities in Texas are disproportionately likely to live in poverty," the three federal judges presiding over the court ruled.

The ruling came as a blow to the state's Republican governor, Rick Perry, rejecting his 2011 law presented as a tool to fight electoral fraud.

"The Supreme Court of the United States has already upheld voter ID laws (in Georgia and Indiana) as a constitutional method of ensuring integrity at the ballot box," said Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.

Two days earlier, another court rejected Texas's electoral redistricting, also on the grounds that the move would result in discrimination against ethnic minority voters.

The Texas government says it will appeal both decisions to the U.S. Supreme Court, and Abbott voiced confidence his state would prevail.

"Chalk up another victory for fraud," Perry said in a statement. "Today, federal judges subverted the will of the people of Texas and undermined our effort to ensure fair and accurate elections."

A state elections official who testified in the case, Brian Ingram, said that up to 239 dead people were on the voter rolls in the most recent election. Officials have confirmed four ballots cast under the names of dead voters.

Attorney General Eric Holder said the rulings would help protect "the vital role the Voting Rights Act plays on our society to ensure that every American has the right to vote and to have that vote counted."

Minority advocacy groups supporting the government's appeal, have argued that the state law violated 1965 electoral legislation barring racial discrimination.

"We are very pleased that the court blocked Texas's voter ID law. The law would have made it more difficult for many African Americans and Latinos to vote," said Natasha Korgaonkar, assistant counsel at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Government lawyer Elizabeth Westfall told the court that registered voters lacking the required ID were "disproportionately Hispanics and blacks."

The overturned law required voters to present a driver's license, passport or permit to carry weapons as identification.

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