The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled yesterday that Texas could enforce its strict Voter ID law, despite a lower court’s finding that the law was discriminatory and would likely suppress the votes of African Americans and Hispanics in Texas.
Writing for the Court, Judge Edith Brown Clement described the immediate challenge to the Texas law as “not a run-of-the-mill case.” She continued, “Instead, it is a voting case decided on the eve of the election. The judgment below substantially disturbs the election process of the State of Texas just nine days before early voting begins. Thus, the value of preserving the status quo here is much higher than in most other contexts.”
Early voting in Texas begins on October 20. Federal District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos’s earlier ruling, blocking enforcement of the new Voter ID law, would have allowed Texans to vote according to the laws that were in place before the Voter ID law took effect last year.
Civil rights groups challenging the law have already filed an emergency application with the US Supreme Court to delay the law’s implementation for the upcoming election. The application was filed with Justice Antonin Scalia who oversees the Fifth Circuit. He may decide the application on his own or refer it to the entire Court.
Under the new Texas Voter ID law, voters must show government-issued photo identification before they can vote at the polls. There are, however, only seven forms of photo ID that will be accepted: a Texas driver’s license, Texas election identification certificate, Texas personal identification card, US military ID, US citizenship certification, US passport, or a license to carry a concealed handgun. Student IDs and social security cards are not considered acceptable forms of identification.
In addition to suppressing the votes of people of color, the Texas law also suppresses the votes of women, students, the poor, and the elderly. It is not immediately clear when Justice Scalia or the Court will act on the emergency application.
Media Resources: SCOTUS Blog 10/15/14; The Hill 10/14/14; US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit 10/14/14; Feminist Newswire 10/13/14, 10/22/13; MSNBC 10/19/13; Texas Secretary of State