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Texas AG calls voter ID ruling 'disappointing,' vows to appeal to Supreme Court

Texas' top attorney told Fox News his state will appeal to the Supreme Court after a federal panel of judges on Thursday rejected the Texas law requiring voters to present photo IDs before casting a ballot. 

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is in Tampa for the Republican National Convention, called the ruling "deeply disappointing." He said the state is trying to prevent "fraudulent voting," claiming, for example, that hundreds of dead people were listed as voting in the state's recent primary. 

"This is actually a national trend, where states are trying to do a better job of securing the integrity of the ballot boxes, and yet courts (are) pushing back against that, seemingly promoting and allowing illegal voters to participate in the election process," Abbott said. 

The court decision came down from a three-judge panel in Washington, D.C. -- during the same week that South Carolina's strict photo ID law is on trial in front of another three-judge panel in the same federal courthouse. A ruling is expected before the November election. 

The panel, in the Texas case, unanimously ruled that the law imposes "strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor," who are often racial minorities. 

The decision involves an increasingly contentious political issue in the U.S.: a push, largely by Republican-controlled legislatures and governors, to impose strict identification requirements on voters. 

Republicans say they are fighting voter fraud. Democrats, with support from a number of studies, say voter fraud is largely non-existent and that Republicans are trying to disenfranchise minorities, poor people and college students -- all groups that tend to support Democrats. 

In the Texas case, the Justice Department called several lawmakers, all of them Democrats, who said they detected a clear racial motive in the push for the voter ID law. Lawyers for Texas argued that the state was simply tightening its laws. 

David Tatel, an appeals court judge appointed by President Bill Clinton and writing for the panel, called the Texas law "the most stringent in the nation." He said it would impose a heavier burden on voters than a similar law in Indiana, previously upheld by the Supreme Court, and one in Georgia, which the Justice Department allowed to take effect without objection. 

During an appearance in Texas in July, Attorney General Eric Holder said the state's photo ID requirement amounts to a poll tax, a term that harkens back to the days after the Civil War when blacks across the South were stripped of their right to vote. 

Abbott, though, said his attorneys will be putting together the paperwork to "be appealing the case on to the Supreme Court." 

"Having to take the time to get a photo and bring all your documents together is not an infringement on your right to vote," he said. 

Last year, new voter ID laws passed in Kansas, Mississippi, Rhode Island and Wisconsin. In addition to Texas and South Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee tightened existing voter ID laws to require photo ID. Governors in Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire and North Carolina vetoed strict new photo ID laws. 

This year, Pennsylvania enacted its own law and voting-rights groups who filed suit in an effort to stop it are appealing to the state Supreme Court. A hearing is scheduled for Sept. 13 in Philadelphia. The Republican administration of Gov. Tom Corbett says a U.S. Justice Department inquiry into the state's tough new voter identification law is politically motivated. The department is requesting the state's voter registration list, plus any database of registered voters who lack a valid photo ID that the law requires voters to show before their ballots can be counted. 

A report by the non-governmental Brennan Center for Justice determined that new voting restrictions could suppress the votes of more than 5 million young, minority, low-income and disabled voters. 

Fox News' Lexi Stemple and The Associated Press contributed to this report.