This is not unexpected, though its still disturbing to those concerned about voting rights — and the possibility that more than half a million legally registered voters in Texas may not be allowed to vote in this November’s election.
A three judge panel on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has, for now, blocked the U.S. District Court’s ruling last week in Texas, issued after a full trial on the merits of the law, which had struck down state Republicans’ polling place Photo ID voting restriction after finding it deliberately discriminatory and a violation of the U.S. Constitution and federal Voting Rights Act.
Following Tuesday’s order by the 5th Circuit [PDF] reversing the lower court ruling, for now, the plaintiffs challenging the state statute said, almost immediately, that they plan to file an emergency appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court to put the law back on hold before the November elections.
Voting rights proponents worry that, if the Court holds true to its recent rulings in voting rights cases in NC, in OH and, most recently, in WI, they are likely to allow Texas’ discriminatory law to stay in place this November, pending a full hearing on the merits at a later date.
There is, however, some important differences in the Texas case than in those other three, which we’ll explain in a moment.
Texas had appealed the initial 147-page ruling [PDF] by U.S. District Court Judge Nelva Gonazles Ramos, issued last week, which found that the Texas Photo ID voting statue, 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.” She also determined that the state requirement that voters produce one of a few very specific types of state-issued Photo ID when voting at the polling place amounted to an “unconstitutional poll tax”, since all such ID requires at least some payment by voters…
On Tuesday, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals panel (two Republican appointees and one Democratic appointee) issued their order to stay the lower court’s ruling, effectively putting the law back into effect for the November election. Early voting in Texas begins on October 20th.
“Essentially, all the marbles of this 5th Circuit order come down to ‘it’s too close to the election to stop the law from going into effect, because pollworkers will be confused,”explains election law expert Justin Levitt of the NYU Brennan Center for Justice.