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Court: Texas Law Violates Voting Rights Act

FILE - An election official checks a voter's photo identification at an early voting polling site in Austin, Texas.

A U.S. appeals court on Wednesday struck down a Texas voter identification law, saying it violated the U.S. Voting Rights Act through its "discriminatory effects."

The decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit pertains to one of a series of laws enacted in Republican-governed states that require voters to show certain forms of identification before being allowed to vote.

Other Republican-controlled states, including Wisconsin and North Carolina, have passed similar voter ID measures in recent years, but the Texas law signed in 2011 by then-Governor Rick Perry is widely viewed as one of the nation's toughest.

It requires one of seven forms of approved identification, a list that included concealed carry licenses for guns but not a college student's university identification.

Texas was allowed to use the voter ID law during the 2014 elections, thereby requiring an estimated 13.6 million registered voters to have photo IDs to cast their ballots.

Supporters of the law say strong ID is needed in order to prevent voter fraud. The law's detractors argue that the requirements suppress legitimate voter turnout, particularly among minorities, who tend to vote for Democrats.

The court did not make a determination as to whether Texas legislators had a discriminatory purpose in passing the legislation, and sent that issue back to a lower federal court to re-evaluate the determination that it was purposefully discriminatory.

Although a victory for Democrats and minority rights groups, the decision wasn't as sweeping as a ruling last year by a lower court that compared the Texas law to old poll taxes that forced minorities to pay to vote.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott said the state would continue to fight to keep the voter ID requirement.

"In light of ongoing voter fraud, it is imperative that Texas has a voter ID law that prevents cheating at the ballot box," he said in a statement.

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