Louisiana and Texas federal judges side with NAACP plaintiffs against discriminatory voting laws
Baltimore, MD – Federal courts in Louisiana and Texas have ruled in favor of the NAACP in two critical cases protecting the rights of voters of color.
Texas District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos ruled on August 23, 2017 that Texas’ new voter ID law (SB 5) does not sufficiently ameliorate the discriminatory effects of the 2011 voter ID law (SB 14). The Texas State Conference of the NAACP and the Mexican American Legislative Caucus of the Texas House of Representatives have been fighting Texas’ voter ID laws in court since September 2013. On five occasions in four years, fourteen judges – including Ramos – have ruled that the 2011 law, requiring voters to show one of seven forms of government-issued identification, intentionally targeted black and Latinx voters and therefore violated the Voting Rights Act. The Texas legislature responded with a slightly looser law, which permits potential voters to show other types of identification, including utility bills and bank statements, but shares much of the same discriminatory aim. Judge Ramos issued an order permanently enjoining Texas from enforcing the old and new laws and requesting the reevaluation of Texas’ status under Section 3 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires states to receive prior approval from the Department of Justice for specific voting-related laws.
U.S. District Court Judge James Brady ruled in favor of the Terrebonne Parish NAACP Branch and four individual black voters that the use of at-large voting for electing five members to the 32nd Judicial District Court (the state court encompassing Terrebonne Parish) violates the U.S. Constitution and Voting Rights Act. Represented by the NAACP LDF, the law firm of Cozen O’Connor, and longtime Louisiana civil rights attorney, Ronald L. Wilson, the plaintiffs filed suit in 2014 to challenge the at-large method for judicial elections – a deliberately discriminatory system for diluting the votes of black voters that has persisted in the parish for nearly fifty years. Case in point: despite black voters making up twenty percent of the Terrebonne electorate, a black judge has never won a contested race in the district.
The court found “a strong case of vote dilution” in Terrebonne with an intention “to limit the opportunity of black individuals to participate meaningfully and effectively in the political process to elect judges of their choice.” The decision paves the way for the creation of sub-districts that will provide black voters in Terrebonne greater opportunity to select candidates of their choice and more closely resemble the district-based voting system that exists throughout most Louisiana parishes. Plaintiffs will also request from the court an affirmative remedy for the voter dilution that Terrebonne voters have endured.
Both rulings are momentous voting rights victories, but they represent only two of many in which the NAACP is currently engaged. While President Trump launches an illusory pursuit of widespread “voter fraud,” the NAACP is in courts across the country, combatting all manners of voter suppression.
ABOUT THE NAACP:
Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest nonpartisan civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities. You can read more about the NAACP’s work and our six “Game Changer” issue areas by visiting NAACP.org.