Texas Agrees to Ease Voter ID Restrictions

     CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (CN) — Texas agreed Wednesday to ease restrictions on its voter identification requirements to make it easier for minorities to vote in the November general election.
     The proposed settlement comes two weeks after the Fifth Circuit struck down Texas’ strict voter ID law, finding it discriminates against minorities.
     The updated terms allow registered voters with an expired ID less than four years old to vote using a regular ballot, according to an agreement filed in Federal Court on Wednesday. Voters without a photo ID can still cast their ballots by presenting proof of residence, such as a voter registration card, utility bill or birth certificate, and sign an affidavit certifying that they are a U.S. citizen.
     Texas must provide the affidavits in English, Spanish, Chinese and Vietnamese.
     U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzalez Ramos must still approve the terms, which also say that election officials cannot challenge voters who lack identification.
     The terms call for the state to develop a $2.5 million “voter education plan” to inform Texans of the updated ID requirements, and instructions for voters who don’t have identification.
     The legal tussle began when the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 14 in 2011, requiring all Texas voters to come to the polls with photo identification.
     The New Orleans-based Fifth Circuit on July 20 agreed with Ramos, finding that SB 14 has a discriminatory impact on minority voter turnout because black and Latino voters are less likely to possess one of seven acceptable forms of photo ID.
     The state has been under increased pressure to revise the law with less than 100 days of the Nov. 8 election.

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