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Full Fifth Circuit will hear voter ID appeal

Here we go again.

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

The full U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to take up the Texas voter ID case Wednesday, adding another chapter to the law’s convoluted journey through the federal court system.

The decision to hear the case, Veasey v. Abbott, en banc comes more than six months after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asked the full court to review a three-judge panel’s ruling that the law has a “discriminatory effect” that violates the Voting Rights Act, but that it is not a “poll tax” barred under the U.S. Constitution.

“Today’s decision is a strong step forward in our efforts to defend the state’s Voter ID laws,” Paxton said in a statement. “Safeguarding the integrity of our elections is a primary function of state government and is essential to preserving our democratic process. We look forward to presenting our case before the full Fifth Circuit.”

Civil rights groups and the U.S. Justice Department had urged the court not to revisit the case. But Paxton argued in a series of appeal filings in August that the plaintiffs had not named any Texans “whose right to vote will be denied or even substantially burdened by maintaining the status quo.”

[…]

Election law expert Rick Hasen noted Wednesday that the current impasse over the next Supreme Court nomination may add even further significance to 5th Circuit’s ruling.

“The stakes are especially high because this is a case which could divide 4-4 before the current Supreme Court, meaning what the entire 5th circuit does may be the final word on Texas’s law,” Hasen wrote on his blog.

No date has been announced for arguments in the case.

See here and here for the background. Let me quote from Rick Hasen’s post to get a feel for this:

It is not clear what internal deliberations were taking place at the 5th Circuit which took the Court more than 5 months to issue this order, but the full 5th Circuit will consider Veasey v. Abbott en banc by the full court. Veasey was significant because this was a case where the court gave a narrow but real victory to voter id plaintiffs in finding a Voting Rights Act Section 2 violation. The stakes are especially high because this is a case which could divide 4-4 before the current Supreme Court, meaning what the entire 5th circuit does may be the final word on Texas’s law.

Given the makeup of the 5th Circuit, as well as the panel members in the original decision, it is not clear how the panel will vote in this case, but if I were plaintiffs I would not be too happy with this order.

There is also the issue of timing—the Fifth Circuit will rule, and who knows how close this will be to the election, and if the Court will let the voter id law be in effect for this election. One can imagine judges on the 5th Circuit who want Texas to use the voter id law in this election to drag their feet long enough to assure a decision does not come until after the election.

Well, I can’t say I’m happy about this either, but it is what it is. The three-judge panel in this case was two to one Democratic, but the decision was unanimous, so there you go. It should be noted that if the plan is to delay any decisions till after November, then by the time it gets to SCOTUS we could have a President Clinton-appointed Justice filling out the bench, so it’s not clear what that buys you. We’ll see when they set a date. Trail Blazers, Paradise In Hell, ThinkProgress, and the Press has more.

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One Comment

  1. brad says:

    Not encouraged by the 5th handling/deciding this matter. Maybe the GOP’s obstruction on the Supreme Court nomination now will come back to haunt them later.