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Schedule set for voter ID discrimination arguments

The next phase of the voter ID litigation will begin shortly after Election Day.

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

A federal judge has scheduled oral arguments for Jan. 24 to determine if the Texas Legislature approved a voter ID law in 2011 with the intent to discriminate against minorities.

The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last month that Texas’ voter ID law had a discriminatory effect, but said a lower court judge overreached in finding that lawmakers had a discriminatory intent in passing the measure.

However, the federal appeals court instructed U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos to revisit the issue.

Ramos, in a two-page order Thursday, rejected arguments from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton that she should back off the discriminatory intent claim until the Legislature has a chance to fine-tune the voter ID law when lawmakers come back to Austin. Paxton’s office proposed a schedule for the intent claim in which the first set of briefs would be filed on June 28 — 30 full days after the Legislature’s regular session is set to end.

[…]

The discriminatory intent claim is a key element in the still-pending voter ID case. If it is found that state lawmakers acted in that manner, the law could not only be struck down but it could open the door for a court to once again require Texas to seek federal approval when changing its elections laws.

You can see a copy of the order here. It’s important to note that the previous rulings didn’t actually throw out the voter ID law. You still have to show ID to vote, and if you have a driver’s license or other form of ID that had been acceptable under that law, you still have to show it. The ruling simply meant that other forms of ID, along with an affidavit swearing that you don’t have one of the originally sanctioned forms, is now sufficient to let your vote be counted. It’s an improvement to be sure, but it’s not a return to how it was pre-voter ID. A ruling that the intent of the law and not just the effect of the law was to discriminate would mean the law in its entirity would be tossed. The district court originally found such intent but the Fifth Circuit demurred, requiring the lower court to reconsider under a stricter set of parameters. That’s what this is about.

If the district court again finds discriminatory intent, then not only would the law be thrown out but preclearance under Section 3 of the Voting Rights Act would be back on the table. I think that’s unlikely (assuming the re-finding was upheld) on the grounds that North Carolina has not yet been put back under preclearance, but it’s still early. In any event, the schedule from the court is as follows: Both parties present their proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law to the court by November, 18th 2016, submit responsive briefings by December 16th, 2016, and oral arguments on January 24th 2017. Should make for an exciting first few weeks of the next legislative session as well. The Lone Star Project and Rick Hasen have more.

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2 Comments

  1. Paul Kubosh says:

    “it really is a non-issue, unless someone makes the conscious choice to make it an issue.”

    Exactly, I couldn’t agree more. Mayor Parker and Progressives. The new Moral Majority.

  2. Paul A Kubosh says:

    Clearly posted on wrong topic. Sorry for the mistake.