Top Texas leaders acted without legal authority when they claimed to be moving forward with implementing the state’s controversial voter ID law, a veteran Supreme Court watcher said today.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and Secretary of State John Steen both said after the Supreme Court struck down the core of the country’s voting rights law Tuesday that the state would begin enforcing laws requiring photo identification for voters.
But Lyle Denniston, a legal scholar who has covered the Supreme Court for 55 years, said the Texas voter ID law cannot take effect immediately.
“This is one of the dumbest statements I’ve heard from an attorney general in a long time,” Denniston, a contributor to the widely read SCOTUSBlog, said.
The state’s voter ID law — as well as any new redistricting plan — cannot be unilaterally implemented, he said.
“[Abbott] has a judgment against him, and that judgment has to be removed before the law can be enforced,” Denniston said. “He cannot do anything while its pending before the Supreme Court unless he withdraws his own petition, and he’s obviously not going to do that.”
In wake of [the SCOTUS Voting Rights Act] ruling, several Texas officials pledged enforce the voter ID bill, which a federal court barred the state from enforcing last August.
But Denniston said that case was not immediately settled Tuesday, because the court struck down a section of the law unrelated to the Texas challenge. He called the attorney general “legally ignorant” for thinking he could advance the laws without the court’s ruling.
Well, we already knew that Greg Abbott’s legal skills were lacking. But that sort of thing never stopped a guy like him. I said when the ruling came down that there would be a lawsuit filed against Texas’ voter ID law. I was right.
Congressman Marc Veasey and other African-American and Hispanic plaintiffs filed a lawsuit this morning in federal court in Corpus Christi to bar the enforcement of Texas’ voter ID law.
Last year, a three-judge panel in Washington had declined to preclear the law under section 5 of the Voting Rights Act and, as a result, the law could not be enforced.
With yesterday’s Shelby Co. decision, however, the state became free to begin to take the steps that would be necessary for it to be in a legal position to enforce the law.
The new suit alleges, though, that even if section 5 no longer bars enforcement of the law, the law’s discriminatory effect on minority voters violates section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and that the Texas Legislature enacted the law with a discriminatory purpose in violation of the 14th and 15th amendments to the Constitution.
The suit also makes a claim that the law violates the Constitution’s 1st amendment by inhibiting free speech and meaningful political association.
The papers asked to the court to issue preliminary and permanent injunctions barred the law’s enforcement.
Rep. Veasey, of course, was one of the intervenors in both the redistricting and voter ID preclearance lawsuits, so I’m sure he’s well prepared for this. Don’t be surprised if this winds up back before the Supreme Court again some day. Unfair Park has more.