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Voter ID’s day before the full Fifth Circuit

Here we go again.

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

A top lawyer for Texas fiercely defended the state’s strictest-in-the-nation voter identification law on Tuesday, in a high-profile case that could ultimately determine at what point states that assert that they are protecting the integrity of elections cross over into disenfranchisement.

Standing before all 15 members of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller argued that judges were wrong to conclude in two previous rulings that the Texas Legislature discriminated against minority and low-income voters in passing a 2011 law that stipulates which types of photo identification election officials can and cannot accept at the polls.

If those rulings are left as written, “all voting laws could be in jeopardy,” Keller said before a packed courtroom that included his boss, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

Lawyers representing the U.S. Department of Justice, minority groups and other plaintiffs disagreed, asking the judges to affirm what a lower court — and a three-judge panel in this same courthouse — previously concluded: that Senate Bill 14 has a “discriminatory effect” on Hispanic, African-American and other would-be voters in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

Only a handful of judges asked questions at length on Tuesday, making it difficult to know where the majority stands. But the 5th Circuit is considered among the nation’s most conservative, with 1o of its members having been appointed by Republican presidents.

Paxton left the courtroom Tuesday feeling “optimistic” that the law, “which has worked” in preventing voter fraud would survive, he told the Tribune.

“There’s been no discriminatory effect shown – they never provided any evidence,” Paxton said. “We’ve done everything we can to provide a way for people to vote. It’s clear.”

Chad Dunn, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said he wouldn’t bother trying to read the judges’ leanings based on their questions, but be nevertheless felt confident, calling the Texas law “indefensible.”

In the courtroom, opponents of the rul argued that not all voter ID laws violate the federal law, but that the state’s unusually short list of what election workers can accept at the polls is particularly burdensome for certain voters — particularly minorities.

“The question is whether there are requirements in SB 14 that are needlessly hard” for certain voters, Dunn told the judges. “The details of this law – which have never been justified — are what make this unconstitutional.”

See here for the background. You pretty much know the story by now, but if you want to engorge yourself on coverage from before the morning of the hearing, here’s the Trib, the Express News, the Associated Press, and Think Progress. The Fifth Circuit will issue a ruling when it is good and ready, but SCOTUS has indicated that there’s a July 20 deadline for deciding whether or not to put an injunction on the law for the November election or not. In the meantime, the Washington Post reminds us what it is like to be on the business end of this law:

In his wallet, Anthony Settles carries an expired Texas identification card, his Social Security card and an old student ID from the University of Houston, where he studied math and physics decades ago. What he does not have is the one thing that he needs to vote this presidential election: a current Texas photo ID.

For Settles to get one of those, his name has to match his birth certificate — and it doesn’t. In 1964, when he was 14, his mother married and changed his last name. After Texas passed a new voter-ID law, officials told Settles he had to show them his name-change certificate from 1964 to qualify for a new identification card to vote.

So with the help of several lawyers, Settles tried to find it, searching records in courthouses in the D.C. area, where he grew up. But they could not find it. To obtain a new document changing his name to the one he has used for 51 years, Settles has to go to court, a process that would cost him more than $250 — more than he is willing to pay.

“It has been a bureaucratic nightmare,” said Settles, 65, a retired engineer. “The intent of this law is to suppress the vote. I feel like I am not wanted in this state.”

If anyone can give me a good reason why Mr. Settles has to go through all that crap in order to be able tovote as he had been voting for nearly 50 years, I’d love to hear it. Actually, I’m tired of arguing the minutiae of this stupid law and its cousins. It’s way past time to establish voting as a constitutional right for all citizens of adult age. Either we’re a democracy or we’re just kidding ourselves. I prefer the former. Trail Blazers has more.

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