A federal appeals court has ruled that Texas must pay $6.8 million in legal fees to parties who challenged the voter identification law.

September 20, 2021

Texas is still liable for over $6.8 million in legal fees and penalties owed to the parties that sued over the state’s voter ID law.

Though the state won the long-running legal battle to keep the voter ID law in place, a panel of the United States 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday upheld a lower court ruling that found the state liable for that amount — the final vestige of the legal battle over the state’s 2011 restrictions on what forms of photo identification are accepted at the polls.

The Texas attorney general’s office had appealed a lower court ruling that found the plaintiffs in the case were the “prevailing parties,” including Democratic U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey of Fort Worth, individual voters, voting and civil rights organizations, the NAACP-Texas, and the Texas House’s Mexican American Legislative Caucus, among others.

On Friday, the 5th Circuit judges stated, “It becomes evident that they are.” “Plaintiffs prevailed in an en banc court challenge to the Texas picture ID requirement, and leveraged that victory to get a court order permanently prohibiting its enforcement for the 2016 and 2017 elections.”

The voter ID case swung back and forth between federal courts for nearly seven years and several elections, with federal District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of Corpus Christi ruling in 2014 that lawmakers discriminated against Hispanic and Black voters when enacting one of the nation’s strictest voter ID laws.

In 2017, lawmakers altered the voter ID statute to match temporary rules put in place by Ramos for the 2016 election in an attempt to alleviate the state’s requirements as the dispute progressed.

The 5th Circuit judges said in their Friday judgment that “the State of Texas plainly cannot go back in time and re-run the 2016 and 2017 elections under a photo ID requirement.”

The 5th Circuit finally maintained Texas’ new statute after the state suffered repeated legal defeats.

Findings that the original statute had a discriminatory effect were preserved.

Ramos had previously argued that the 2011 law disproportionately burdened voters of color who are less likely to have one of the seven forms of identification the state required people to show at the polls. A three-judge 5th Circuit panel and then the 5th Circuit’s full court — which is considered to be among the country’s most conservative appellate courts — had previously agreed with Ramos that the 2011 law disproportionately burdened voters of color who are less likely to have one of the seven forms

Ramos cited those findings — as well as her temporary regulations, which the state consented to — in determining that the plaintiffs who sued the state were the “prevailing parties” and were entitled to the granted sum to compensate legal fees and expenses paid during the case.

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