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The Supreme Court Just Said Texas

Can Use Its Controversial Voter ID


Law

SAM HANANEL, ASSOCIATED PRESS


OCT. 18, 2014, 9:59 AM

The Supreme Court said Saturday that Texas can use its controversial
new voter identification law for the November election.
A majority of the justices rejected an emergency request from the Justice
Department and civil rights groups to prohibit the state from requiring
voters to produce certain forms of photo identification in order to cast
ballots. Three justices dissented.
The law was struck down by a federal judge last week, but a federal
appeals court had put that ruling on hold. The judge found that roughly
600,000 voters, many of them black or Latino, could be turned away at
the polls because they lack acceptable identification. Early voting in
Texas begins Monday.The Supreme Court's order was unsigned, as it
typically is in these situations. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia
Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented, saying they would have left the
district court decision in place.
"The greatest threat to public confidence in elections in this case is the
prospect of enforcing a purposefully discriminatory law, one that likely
imposes an unconstitutional poll tax and risks denying the right to vote
to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters," Ginsburg wrote in dissent.
Texas' law sets out seven forms of approved ID a list that includes
concealed handgun licenses but not college student IDs, which are
accepted in other states with similar measures.The 143-page opinion
from U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos called the law an
"unconstitutional burden on the right to vote" and the equivalent of a
poll tax in finding that the Republican-led Texas Legislature purposely
discriminated against minority voters in Texas.
Texas had urged the Supreme Court to let the state enforce voter ID at
the polls in a court filing that took aim at the ruling by Ramos, an
appointee of President Barack Obama. Attorney General Greg Abbott, a
Republican who's favored in the gubernatorial race, called Ramos'
findings "preposterous" and accused the judge of ignoring evidence
favorable to the state.
The court had intervened in three other disputes in recent weeks over
Republican-inspired restrictions on voting access. In Wisconsin, the
justices blocked a voter ID law from being used in November. In North
Carolina and Ohio, the justices allowed limits on same-day registration,
early voting and provisional ballots to take or remain in effect.
Ginsburg said the Texas case was different from the clashes in North
Carolina and Ohio because a federal judge held a full trial on the Texas
election procedures and developed "an extensive record" finding the
process discriminated against ballot access.
Texas has enforced its tough voter ID in elections since the Supreme
Court in June 2013 effectively eliminated the heart of the Voting Rights
Act, which had prevented Texas and eight other states with histories of
discrimination from changing election laws without permission. Critics
of the Texas measure, though, said the new ID requirement has not been
used for an election for Congress and the Senate, or a high-turnout
statewide election like the race for governor.
Ramos' issued her ruling on October 9. Five days later, the 5th U.S.
Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans put her decision on hold and
cited a 2006 Supreme Court opinion that warned judges not to change
the rules too close to Election Day.
The challengers in Texas said that the last time the Supreme Court
allowed a voting law to be used in a subsequent election after it had been
found to be unconstitutional was in 1982. That case from Georgia
involved an at-large election system that had been in existence since
1911.
Republican lawmakers in Texas and elsewhere say voter ID laws are
needed to reduce voter fraud. Democrats contend that such cases are
extremely rare and that voter ID measures are thinly veiled attempts to
keep eligible voters, many of them minorities supportive of Democrats,
away from the polls.
___
Associated Press writer Mark Sherman in Washington contributed to
this report.
Copyright (2014) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may
not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Justice Department Sues Texas Over


Voter ID Law, Seeks To Intervene In
Redistricting Case
| By CHRIS TOMLINSON and PETE YOST

Posted: 08/22/2013 12:42 pm EDT Updated: 10/22/2013 5:12 am ED

AUSTIN, Texas The Justice Department sued Texas on Thursday over the state's voter ID
law and will seek to intervene in a lawsuit over its redistricting laws that minority groups
complain are discriminatory, but Texas Republicans insist are designed to protect the state's
elections from fraud.

Attorney General Eric Holder said the action marks another step in the effort to protect
voting rights of all eligible Americans. He said the government will not allow a recent
Supreme Court decision to be interpreted as open season for states to pursue measures that
suppress voting rights.

"This represents the department's latest action to protect voting rights, but it will not be our
last," the attorney general said.
Holder is concentrating on Texas because of years of litigation over the state's Voter ID law
and redistricting maps that federal judges in Washington have determined would either
indirectly disenfranchise minorities and the poor, or intentionally discriminate minorities.

Texas is the only state found to have intentionally discriminated against minorities in this
decade's round of redistricting, and the state was banned from enforcing either law. But the
U.S. Supreme Court decision requiring revisions to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 took away
the judges' authority to intervene.

That has forced Holder and minority groups to use other aspects of the Voting Rights Act or
the Constitution to fight the cases in other federal courts.

Gov. Rick Perry called Holder's move a blatant disregard for states' 10th Amendment rights
and has said the Obama administration's actions are an "end run around the Supreme
Court."

"The filing of endless litigation in an effort to obstruct the will of the people of Texas is what
we have come to expect from Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama," he
added.

Attorney General Greg Abbott, a proponent of the voter ID law and a candidate to replace
Perry, vowed to fight the Justice Department.

"Eric Holder is wrong to mess with Texas," he said. "By intervening in the redistricting case,
the Obama DOJ is predictably joining with Democrat state legislators and Members of
Congress and the Texas Democratic Party, who are already suing the State."

But state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus
that is a plaintiff in the redistricting case, said federal intervention was necessary to protect
minority rights.

"Federal courts have ruled time and again that government officials in Texas are
systematically making it harder for minorities to vote," he said in a statement. "I am
confident that the overwhelming evidence demonstrating intentional discrimination in
Texas, when presented in court, will compel state officials to remove barriers to voting that
will disenfranchise far too many of our citizens."

In the voter ID lawsuit, the U.S. government will contend that Texas adopted a voter
identification law with the purpose of denying or restricting voters' rights based on race,
color or membership in a language minority group. The law requires voters to produce a
state-issued ID before casting a ballot, while before voters could use their registration cards.

Intervening in the redistricting case would enable the federal government to seek a
declaration that Texas's 2011 redistricting plans for the U.S. Congress and the Texas State
House of Representatives were adopted to deny or restrict the right to vote on account of
race, color, or membership in a language minority group.

Since a federal court found that Texas intentionally discriminated against minorities with its
2011 redistricting plans and voter identification law, state lawmakers have withdrawn their
original maps and replaced them with a plan adopted by a federal court as a stop-gap
measure. But Abbott has said the voter ID law is in effect.

The separate provision of the Voting Rights Act that Holder is invoking may be a difficult
tool for the Obama administration to use. A handful of jurisdictions have been subjected to
advance approval of election changes through this provision, but a court first must find that
a state or local government engaged in intentional discrimination under the 14th or 15th
amendments, or the jurisdiction has to admit to discrimination. Unlike other parts of the
voting law, the discriminatory effect of a law is not enough to trigger the provision.

The NAACP, one of the plaintiffs in the redistricting case, said it will intervene in the voter
ID case in support of the Justice Department.

"Texas has a deeply disturbing history of brazenly suppressing the votes and voting strength
of Black and Latino voters," said Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense and
Educational Fund. "A Texas voter is more likely to be struck by lightning than to see
someone attempt to vote fraudulently at the polls."