Hundreds of thousands of voters of color in Texas and Wisconsin will not be denied access to the ballot box this November in the wake of two recent court rulings. Civil rights advocates are claiming these rulings are significant victories.

On Oct. 9, a federal judge in Texas and the Supreme Court struck down laws that would require voters in both states to present photo identification to vote. This issue has been a political flashpoint in states across the nation. Republicans have argued it’s a needed to prevent voter fraud. Democrats and civil rights activists say widespread voter fraud is a mere figment of the GOP imagination and that the laws are instead meant to keep minorities, the poor and the young – who tend to lean Democrat – from voting.

Texas’ law, SB 14, has been deemed the most restrictive voter ID law in the nation.

“The court’s ruling will enable minority voters to more fairly participate in the electoral process,” said Jon M. Greenbaum. Greenbaum is the chief counsel and senior deputy director for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a nonpartisan organization that represents two of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.  “This is a great victory for democracy,” he said.

In Wisconsin’s case, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the state from implementing its photo ID law, vacating an Oct. 6 ruling by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals that had affirmed the law as constitutional. “We’re really thrilled about the victory in the Supreme Court. It was a hard-fought battle to stop Wisconsin’s voter ID law for the November elections,” said Katherine Culliton-González, senior attorney and director of voter protection for the Advancement Project, which represents plaintiffs in the case.

In Texas, the photo ID law was challenged by several interveners, including the Department of Justice, on the basis of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and the Constitution. Advocates claimed the law unfairly and purposefully abridged the right to vote of minority voters in the state. And in her 147-page opinion, District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos agreed.

“The Court holds that SB 14 creates an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote, has an impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans, and was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose,” Ramos’ opinion read. “The Court further holds that SB 14 constitutes an unconstitutional poll tax.”

While the court’s finding that the Republican-controlled Texas legislature deliberately discriminated against voters of color is significant, it was not surprising, Bob Kengle, co-director of the Lawyers’ Committee’s Voting Rights Project, told the {AFRO}.

“There were many, many, many amendments offered while this bill was being legislated that would have tempered the impact of it. But, the people who were running the legislature rejected those amendments,” Kengle said in an interview. “What that showed is that the impact (on minority voters) was what they wanted in the first place.

He added, “Because they were so extreme in pushing such a hardline, restrictive measure, it made it easier to challenge.”

In her decision, Ramos cited the preponderance of expert evidence showing that African Americans and Latinos disproportionately lack the required identification. It also cited the substantial burdens those individuals would face in obtaining the mandated documentation, including time taken away from work and the costs of purchasing the IDs.

The judge also noted a lack of any real evidence of widespread voter fraud and Texas’ long history of discrimination against minority voters. “What it means legally is that is sets up a predicate for the court to order Texas back under pre-clearance (federal oversight of election laws,)” Kengle said. “There is a pretty good chance that a judge will order some type of pre-clearance as a final remedy in the case.”

Texas is appealing the decision in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and among its arguments is that following its pre-2012 identification law would be more confusing for voters and election administrators. Kengle said, however, that administrators from at least five counties have provided testimony saying administering the pre-2012 rules would be much easier.

In Wisconsin’s case, the majority of Supreme Court justices – Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented – agreed to hold off on implementing the law, noting the “proximity” of the upcoming election.

Last month, a three-judge panel from the Seventh Circuit ruled that the state could implement the law while it considered the merits of the case, sparking outrage and dismay among civil rights activists and community leaders, who felt it was too short a time to prepare voters for the change.

Approximately 300,000 registered voters, who lack the strict voter IDs, would have been disenfranchised, said Culliton-González during a press call. And many more could have been disenfranchised based on the level of confusion alone, community organizers said.

“When the Seventh Court decision came down last month and photo ID was suddenly needed to vote my work doubled,” said Anita Johnson, of Citizen Action of Wisconsin, who has worked for the past year on educating voters about changes in the election law.

Many more calls for help came in, Johnson said. And, she found, for example, that many seniors lacked birth certificates and other documents needed to obtain their IDs, among other concerns. And, even Department of Motor Vehicle clerks – whose job it would be to issue the IDs – also seemed confused, Johnson said. “This was such a sudden change nobody knew what to do.”

She added, “The photo ID law is unnecessary and potentially harmful and was likely to cause confusion at the polls next month. So it is with a sigh of relief that I know that Wisconsin seniors, students, the poor and people of color will have the dignity of voting without showing their IDs at the polls.”

The civil rights victories in Wisconsin and Texas came a day after the Supreme Court stayed an appeals court decision in North Carolina, which would have provided a preliminary injunction against key provisions of the state’s massive election law that would have disproportionately disenfranchised African-American voters. The Supreme Court’s ruling means that voters – particularly African Americans – will no longer be able to benefit from same-day registration and out-of-precinct provisional voting this election cycle.