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December 6th, 2017:

Voter ID back before the Fifth Circuit

And the worst judge on the Fifth Circuit does her thing.

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

In Texas’ bid to keep its voter identification law intact, it was its legal foes — lawyers representing voting and civil rights groups and individual voters of color — who faced a tougher line of questioning Tuesday before a federal appellate court.

In light of recent revisions to the state’s voter ID law, two judges on the three-judge panel of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals raised questions about claims that lawmakers intentionally discriminated against voters of color when they passed rules on which photo IDs can be presented at the polls. That intentional discrimination claim, which a lower court affirmed this year, is key to the case over the state voter ID restrictions.

“If there is nothing that says we are trying to advantage white voters … isn’t that proof that there wasn’t discriminatory intent?” Judge Edith Jones, a Reagan appointee, said of the plaintiffs’ lack of a smoking gun to prove purposeful discrimination by lawmakers, despite thousands of pages of memos and transcripts of debates over the voter ID requirements.


Texas lawmakers passed Senate Bill 5, which mostly followed the lead of temporary voter ID rules Ramos put in place for the 2016 elections in an effort to ease the state’s requirements.

Key to the state’s defense: The new law allows Texans without photo ID to vote if they present alternate forms of ID and sign affidavits swearing a “reasonable impediment” kept them from obtaining the proper ID. Those voters could present documents such as utility bills, bank statements or paychecks to confirm their identification. Those found to have lied about not possessing the proper photo ID could be charged with a state jail felony, which carries a penalty of 180 days to two years in jail.

That revision “completely changes the nature of the law,” Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller told the judges on Tuesday, arguing the appellate court should dismiss Ramos’ August decision to toss that bill out, too. Ramos said SB 5 didn’t clear Texas lawmakers of discriminating against Hispanic and black voters when they passed the original law.

Attorneys representing the voting and civil rights groups suing the state asserted that the “reasonable impediment” provision was a faulty remedy to issues with the original law.

Voting “under the express threat of going to jail” would have a “chilling effect” on voters without photo ID who are more likely to be people of color, said Janai Nelson, an attorney with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

“What one hand gives, the other taketh away,” Nelson said of “reasonable impediment” addition.

See here for the long story. This is all about whether the law was intentionally discriminatory, in which case it would be thrown out in its entirity, or if the fix passed by the Lege remediates all that. This is going to go to SCOTUS, likely with an en banc stop along the way, so whatever happens here is not the last word. Some day this will all be over.

Filing news: Adrian Garcia is in for County Commissioner

From the inbox:

Adrian Garcia

Former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia announced his candidacy for Harris County Commissioner, Precinct Two, citing his experience in bringing people together around smart government, transparency, and delivering results for taxpayers.

“We all know that sometimes government can come up short, so it’s up to leaders who love what we do to roll our sleeves up and find better solutions,” said former Sheriff Garcia. “Since the day my mother encouraged me to become a Houston Police officer and with the advice that my late father gave me, which was to work hard, be honest, and never forget where I come from, I found I loved being a public servant!”

“As a police officer, City Council member, Mayor Pro Tem, and as your Sheriff, I have always worked to find better ways to save you money, deliver transparency, and improve our quality of life,” continued Garcia. “With the impact of Hurricane Harvey, we now need leaders who are willing to get in the community and work with everyone to find solutions to keep our families and our property safe.”

“There is a better way forward for everyone,” concluded Garcia. “I look forward to speaking with the residents of East Harris County, and earning your support for our campaign to make our communities a better place to live, work, and raise a family.”

The campaign also released an internal poll memo (below and attached) showing Garcia with a strong favorable rating and ratio, and a six point lead over the incumbent commissioner, Jack Morman.

You can see the aforementioned memo here. The poll was done by PPP and seems reasonable enough, so let’s just insert the standard disclaimers about how far in advance of the election it is and move along. Garcia will have to make it through the primary first, with one of his opponents being Pasadena City Council member Sammy Casados. It’s at times like this that I wonder about how much of a factor timing is. I don’t know exactly when Garcia decided to jump into this race, but the poll in question was conducted November 29-30, so he had to at least have been thinking about it before then. Anyway, you can now add this race to the ever-longer list of interesting Democratic primaries for next year. The Chron has more.

Beyond that, not a whole lot of interest yesterday. Dems now have a candidate for Commissioners Court in Precinct 4, Penny Shaw, about whom I currently know nothing. Precinct 4 is the most Republican of the four, so keep expectations in check. CD10 is up to three candidates, as Michael Siegel, the assistant city attorney in Austin, puts in his filing. And on the Republican side, State Rep. Lance Gooden threw his hat in for CD05, the seat vacated by Rep. Jeb Hensarling. By the way, if you want to get a view of how different this primary looks right now from each party’s perspective, go to the SOS candidate filing page, filter on Harris County, then compare the Ds to the Rs. Quite the eye-opener, no?

Thunderstorms are going to get worse

Just FYI.

Summer thunderstorms in North America will likely be larger, wetter and more frequent in a warmer world, dumping 80 percent more rain in some areas and worsening flooding, a new study says.

Future storms will also be wilder, soaking entire cities and huge portions of states, according to a federally-funded study released Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change.

The U.S. in recent years has experienced prolonged drenchings that have doused Nashville in 2010, West Virginia and Louisiana in 2016 and Houston this year. The disasters cost about $20 billion a year in damage.

By the end of century if emissions aren’t curbed, these gully washers will be much worse because they will get bigger, said Andreas Prein, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, who led the study.

Prein and colleagues used high-resolution computer simulations to see how global warming will likely change the large thunderstorms that are already daily summer events in North America. Previous studies projected more frequent and wetter storms, but this is the first research to show they likely will be more widespread, covering an entire city instead of just half of it, Prein said.

“We see increases that are beyond our expectations … far beyond our expectations,” Prein said. “It looks everything that can go wrong does go wrong concerning flooding.”

Awesome, huh? We can build more reservoirs and update our development codes and all those other things, but if we’re not taking every action we can to curb climate change, we’re just spinning our wheels. Maybe elect more people who take that threat seriously? Just a thought.