In her ruling on Monday, Judge Ramos wrote that the evidence cited by the Fifth Circuit “did not tip the scales” in favor of the state.
Her ruling sets the stage for a potential penalty for Texas that could have a long-lasting impact. Lawyers involved in the case said the ruling effectively strikes down the law, although the judge did not issue a separate order doing so. Texas officials are likely to appeal the decision.
“We’re disappointed and will seek review of this ruling at the appropriate time,” said Marc Rylander, a spokesman for the Texas attorney general, Ken Paxton.
Some expected the ruling.
“This is an exciting ruling, but it is no surprise,” said Myrna Perez, a deputy director of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School, which represented two of the groups that sued the state, the Texas N.A.A.C.P. and the Mexican-American Legislative Caucus.
“Texas passed the most restrictive photo ID law in the country — a law the legislators knew would hurt minority voting rights, without any evidence justifying it, and they broke all sorts of legislative rules and norms to do it,” Ms. Perez said.
Judge Ramos acknowledged the difficulty of pinning down the Legislature’s motives. She wrote of considering “all available direct and circumstantial evidence of intent” rather than trying to “discern the motivations of particular legislators.” The judge highlighted attempts by Democrats to blunt the racial impact of the law, known as Senate Bill 14, through amendments that were ultimately rejected, including allowing additional types of photo identification. “Many categories of acceptable photo IDs permitted by other states were omitted from the Texas bill,” she wrote.
Kristen Clarke, the president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which represented some…