Thursday, August 30, 2012

Federal court strikes down Texas Voter ID law

In a unanimous decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for he DC Circuit voided the Texas voter ID law as violating the Voting Rights Act.

Rick Hasen at his Election Law Blog,
This is a careful, unanimous opinion from a three-judge court which rejects most of the social science evidence submitted by both sides on whether Texas’s voter id law imposes greater burdens on minority voters. Instead, the court bases its analysis on three basically uncontested facts: (1) Minority voters are at least proportionately as likely as white voters in Texas to lack the documents needed for Texas’s new id law (which the Court calls perhaps the most “stringent” in the nation; (2) the new i.d. law will put high burdens on poor people who lack id (many of whom would have to travel up to 200 or 250 miles at their own expense to get the i.d. as well as pay at least $22 for the documents needed to get the i.d.; and (3) minority voters in Texas are more likely to be poor. Using this simple structure, the court concludes that Texas, which bears the burden of proof in a section 5 case, cannot prove its law won’t make the position of protected minorities worse off. And the court suggests this was a problem of its own making: Texas could have made the i.d. law less onerous (as in Georgia, which the court suggests DOJ was probably right to preclear) and Texas could have done more to produce evidence supporting its side at trial, but it engaged in bad trial tactics.
Hasen expects Texas to seek an emergency injunction from the Supreme Court seeking to enjoin enforcement of this decision so Texas can use the new ID law in the November election.  The Roberts' Court is the most conservative court in nearly 100 years, and they have shown a willingness to play politics, but this voter ID law is likey a bridge too far.  I will be surprised if court agrees to hear argument or grant an injunction.  Texas cannot show any harm, much less "irreparable harm" which would be a necessary precursor to an injunction.

Texas is also challenging the Constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.  Had the Court upheld the Texas law, the Constitutionality issues would be moot, so those issues have not yet been heard by the Court.

You can read the unanimous 56-page opinion by Judge Tatel at this link.

No comments: