A district judged erred by partially blocking the enforcement of new Texas voter registration laws while a lawsuit alleging that the laws suppress voting goes forward, a federal appeals court has ruled.
A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in a 2-1 opinion Thursday that there was not enough evidence to allow a preliminary injunction preventing the enforcement of five registration law provisions.
Judge Edith Jones was joined by Judge Jerry Smith in the panel’s opinion. Judge W. Eugene Davis dissented, saying the state laws conflict with federal election laws.
An emergency three-judge panel blocked U.S. District Judge Greg Costa’s injunction before the November elections last year, leaving the final decision to Jones’ panel.
The lawsuit, which alleges that Texas laws make it difficult to register voters and that they violate the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, will go forward, civil rights attorney Chad Dunn said.
“I can assure you the case is gong to continue,” Dunn said. “Texas is now the only state in the country where it is a criminal offense to run an organized voter registration drive.”
See here for the last update, with links to earlier entries. The plaintiffs can ask for a review by the full panel, they can appeal this ruling to the Supreme Court, or they can accept it and proceed with the lawsuit. I don’t know what the best course of action is, but I remain optimistic for the final outcome. I’m not sure why the situation warrants optimism, but I feel that way anyway.
One place where optimism is more warranted is the state of voter registration here in Harris County. Tax Assessor Mike Sullivan invited a number of local bloggers in to talk about his office and ask any questions about it. One encouraging thing I heard was that the voter registration total for Harris County stands at approximately 1,980,000 as of today. That’s up from 1,942,566 in 2012, and breaks a pattern of registration declines in odd numbered years:
The Chron confirms the registration total as well. In addition, the office has already done
20 46 training sessions for deputy vote registrars – the minimum required by the state is one per month – and most impressively was able to get all three federal lawsuits against Harris County over its voter registration practices withdrawn by making a commitment to stopping past bad behavior and adhering to good practices going forward. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a Tax Assessor that has focused primarily on its duties and not on partisan matters. Sullivan made a promise to do that during the campaign, and so far he’s done a good job of keeping it. It’s a very positive accomplishment.
UPDATE: Corrected the number of deputy voter training sessions conducted. Please note that the “stopping past bad behavior” characterization is mine and not a quote from Mike Sullivan or anyone in his office. For other takes on our visit, see PDiddie, John Coby, and Greg.