U.S. judge approves deal to weaken Texas voter ID law; Wisconsin suspended

August 10, 2016 2:21 PM EDT

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By Jon Herskovitz

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - A U.S. judge on Wednesday approved a deal reached between Texas and civil rights groups to remedy a voter identification law that was found to be discriminatory and in violation of the U.S. Voting Rights Act by an appeals court last month, lawyers in the case said.

Courts in recent weeks have blocked voter ID laws passed by several Republican-led states after civil rights groups argued the measures were discriminatory and prevented poor and minority voters - who typically support Democrats - from casting ballots because they could not obtain authorized ID cards.

In a separate voter ID decision on Wednesday concerning measures in Wisconsin, a U.S. appeals court suspended a remedy being worked out to weaken that state's law.

A federal judge struck down portions of the law last month law and ordered the state to revamp its voter identification rules, finding that they disenfranchised minority voters.

Texas was ordered by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in July to work out a fix ahead of the November general election to the law that required voters to show government-issued IDs such as a driver's license, passport or concealed handgun license before casting a ballot.

An agreement reached between the state and plaintiffs earlier this month was approved by a U.S. district judge, lawyers for plaintiffs said.

"This is an important victory for voters," said Myrna Pérez, deputy director of the New York University School of Law Brennan Center’s Democracy Program, which fought against the law.

Plaintiffs had argued the existing Texas law could exclude as many as 600,000 voters, mostly racial minorities such as Latinos and African-Americans and the impoverished who could not obtain the appropriate identification.

Supporters of these laws have said they are necessary to prevent voter fraud.

The agreement is unlikely to affect the Nov. 8 presidential election, given that Texas is traditionally a Republican stronghold.

Under the deal, a voter whose name appears on the voting roll but who lacks the appropriate ID could cast a ballot after showing an item such as a valid voter registration card or a government document with the voter's name and address.

The person would have to sign a declaration swearing that he or she has had a reasonable difficulty that prevented obtaining one of the accepted forms of photo identification.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, said the state reached the deal due to the court's time constraints and he planned to appeal the case.

North Carolina will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to allow a state law requiring voters to show identification to stand, after an appellate court struck it down a week ago, Republican Governor Pat McCrory said last week.

(Additional reporting by Eric Walsh and Lawrence Hurley in Washington; Editing by Matthew Lewis)



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