The matter is officially with the Supreme Court now.
A federal court deferred further proceedings in a lawsuit filed by Texas over the state’s voter identification law until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on whether part of the Voting Rights Act is constitutional.
A three-judge panel in Washington said today that “in the interest of efficiency and judicial economy” it will wait for the Supreme Court to review a provision of the 1965 law requiring all or part of 16 mostly Southern states to get federal approval before changing their voting rules. The Texas suit challenges the same provision.
The judges today issued a final judgment on their earlier rejection of the identification law, allowing Texas to seek an immediate appeal to the Supreme Court.
The high court said Nov. 9 it would consider a case in which Shelby County, Alabama, objects to the formula in Section 5 for determining which jurisdictions must get pre-clearance of laws affecting voting qualifications and procedures. The court will hear arguments in the case on Feb. 27.
According to Texas Redistricting, the Dc panel also stayed any consideration of the state’s claim that section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional pending the Supreme Court’s resolution of the Shelby case. The final order denying preclearance is what the state wanted. Intervenors opposed the request for an immediate appeal:
They told the court the state’s request for an immediate appeal was “inexplicabl[e]” given that the request had come only “[t]hree months after this Court’s August 30 decision denying preclearance.”
Instead, the intervenors’ filing told the court that it would be a more efficient use of judicial resources – and less burdensome to the parties – to let the Supreme Court first decide the constitutionality of section 5 of the Voting Rights Act in the pending Shelby County case:
The Supreme Court’s affirmance of the circuit court’s decision in Shelby County, for example, may effectively end the preclearance dispute in this case given the extent to which Texas has invoked constitutional concerns in arguing for preclearance. If, on the other hand, the Supreme Court in Shelby County does not affirm the circuit court’s decision, a direct appeal of this case to the Supreme Court of the preclearance decision would, most likely, constitute a waste of judicial resources.
In a short filing Friday, lawyers for the Justice Department told the court that they did not oppose granting the relief sought by the court.
Click over to see the filings, and click over to Texas Redistricting to review the history of this case if you need it. Between this and the redistricting appeal/map redraw, there’s a lot to look forward to from SCOTUS and the San Antonio court in the next month or so.