A federal judge in Washington has blocked a voter ID law that critics say will disenfranchise thousands of voters in the city of Seattle.
The ruling was issued Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman in Seattle, which has one of the nation’s strictest voter ID requirements.
It will be appealed.
Adelman, who is from suburban Maryland, ruled the law was unconstitutional because it discriminates against black and Latino voters.
“The purpose of the challenged statute is to prevent African-American and Latino citizens of the United States from being able to cast a ballot,” Adelman wrote.
“That purpose is accomplished by providing the Secretary of State with the option to choose among four different types of voter identification.”
The law has drawn fire from the civil rights and voting rights groups, which have challenged it.
“This is yet another case in which Congress has tried to suppress the vote by denying it to minorities,” said John W. Whitehead, executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which filed a lawsuit challenging the law.
“We will not rest until every American has the right to vote.
It is time to end this discriminatory practice in Washington state.”
The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
Adelson said she was not convinced that the state law was motivated by racial discrimination.
“Although the challenged voter ID requirement does not discriminate on the basis of race, it does present a significant burden to voters who do not have a driver’s license, identification card, or photo ID,” she wrote.
The judge’s ruling was also the first by a federal judge to be issued in Seattle in 20 years.
It was not immediately clear how many other jurisdictions would face challenges, although Adelman noted that she is aware of at least two other cases in which voters in Arizona and Kansas have challenged similar voter ID laws.
A federal court in New Jersey in April blocked a law that sought to restrict early voting and voter registration in New York.
That ruling was stayed pending the outcome of the appeals court case.
The lawsuit challenging Washington’s law has raised questions about whether the federal government should be involved in the voting process.
“What’s the point of requiring voters to show ID to vote when you’re not really enforcing the law?” asked Michael McCann, a law professor at the University of California-Berkeley.
“If the federal courts are going to step in and enforce the law, why not enforce it?”