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Texas on the hook for $6.8 million after long voter ID fight

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Illustration by Todd Wiseman

Texas ultimately won the long-winding fight to keep its voter ID law on the books, but a federal judge has ruled the state is on the hook for nearly $6.8 million in legal fees and costs.

In a Wednesday order, federal district Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of Corpus Christi found the state must pay that sum to the collection of parties who sued over the 2011 restrictions the state set on what forms of photo identification are accepted at the polls. A spokesperson for the Texas attorney general indicated the state will appeal the ruling.

The voter ID case ricocheted through the federal courts for nearly seven years and over several elections, with Ramos' first ruling in 2014 that lawmakers discriminated against Hispanic and black voters when they crafted one of the nation’s strictest voter ID laws.

Lawmakers eventually revised the voter ID law in 2017 to match temporary rules Ramos had put in place for the 2016 election in an effort to ease the state’s requirements as the litigation moved forward. After the state faced multiple losses in the courts, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ultimately upheld Texas' revised law.

But left intact were findings that the original law produced discriminatory results.

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 of identification the state required them to show at the polls.

Pointing to those rulings, Ramos determined the plaintiffs who sued the state — Democratic U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey of Fort Worth, individual voters, voting and civil rights groups, the NAACP-Texas and the Texas House’s Mexican American Legislative Caucus, among others — were the “prevailing parties” and were entitled to the awarded sum to cover legal fees and expenses incurred during the litigation.