Texas’s restrictive voter ID law to remain in effect

In a ruling issued early this morning, the US Supreme Court upheld the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that the Texas voter ID law SB 14, one of the most restrictive in the nation, should stay in place through the current election, thus likely disenfranchising many poor and minority and student voters, the ones most likely to vote for the Democratic party.

A US District judge had ruled on October 9 that the law was unconstitutional but this verdict was stayed by the Appeals Court on October 14 on the grounds that because the election was imminent, no changes should be made. Both the Appeals and Supreme courts did not rule on the actual merits of the case. The Supreme Court did not indicate who had voted to uphold the Appeals Court but it requires at least five votes. Justice Ginsburg, joined by justices Sotomayor and Kagan, dissented and she dismissed the idea that suspending the law would create confusion. She wrote:

In any event, there is little risk that the District Court’s injunction will in fact disrupt Texas’ electoral processes. Texas need only reinstate the voter identification procedures it employed for ten years (from 2003 to 2013) and in five federal general elections. To date, the new regime, Senate Bill 14, has been applied in only three low- participation elections—namely, two statewide primaries and one statewide constitutional referendum, in which voter turnout ranged from 1.48% to 9.98%. The November 2014 election would be the very first federal general election conducted under Senate Bill 14’s regime. In all likelihood, then, Texas’ poll workers are at least as familiar with Texas’ pre-Senate Bill 14 procedures as they are with the new law’s requirements.

She listed all the hurdles that voters faced in getting an acceptable ID.

The Bill requires in-person voters to present one of a limited number of government-issued photo identification documents. Texas will not accept several forms of photo ID permitted under the Wisconsin law the Court considered last week. For example, Wisconsin’s law permits a photo ID from an in-state four-year college and one from a federally recognized Indian tribe. Texas, under Senate Bill 14, accepts neither. Nor will Texas accept photo ID cards issued by the U. S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Those who lack the approved forms of identification may obtain an “election identification certificate” from the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), but more than 400,000 eligible voters face round-trip travel times of three hours or more to the nearest DPS office. Moreover, applicants for an election identification certificate ordinarily must pre- sent a certified birth certificate.

She said that there was almost no evidence that voter fraud was a problem (“Between 2002 and 2011, there were only two in-person voter fraud cases prosecuted to conviction in Texas”) and Texas had rejected all the alternative measures that had been proposed that would make the burdens less onerous, thus creating the strong presumption that the law was intended to be discriminatory.

The potential magnitude of racially discriminatory voter disenfranchisement counseled hesitation before disturbing the District Court’s findings and final judgment. Senate Bill 14 may prevent more than 600,000 registered Texas voters (about 4.5% of all registered voters) from voting in person for lack of compliant identification. A sharply disproportionate percentage of those voters are African-American or Hispanic.

The Appeals Court will now hear oral arguments on the merits of the case and whatever the outcome, that verdict will be appealed to the Supreme Court, the whole process taking at least a year and possibly two or more.


  1. Mobius says

    A sharply disproportionate percentage of those voters are African-American or Hispanic.

    But, on the Daily Show Bill O’Reilly said there is no such thing as White Privilege.

  2. Johnny Vector says

    I propose the following “Voting Rights Restoration Act”.

    (a) In general
    Government shall not substantially burden a person’s ability to vote even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, except as provided in subsection (b) of this section.
    (b) Exception
    Government may substantially burden a person’s ability to vote only if it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person—
    (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and
    (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.
    (c) Judicial relief
    A person whose voting has been burdened in violation of this section may assert that violation as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding and obtain appropriate relief against a government. Standing to assert a claim or defense under this section shall be governed by the general rules of standing under article III of the Constitution.

    Firstly, who would go on record opposing it?

    And secondly, SCOTUS has already shown their willingness to define “substantial burden” at an almost laughably low level, and “least restrictive means” as “any other possible way to do it”.

    Thus, this would rule out any of the recent voter ID laws. And probably require vote-by-mail and maybe vote-by-internet. Who’s with me?

  3. alkaloid says

    @Johnny Vector, #2

    Why not just go directly to universal vote by mail and universal voter registration (namely if you’re legal age, you’re automatically registered)? If you give the court system a chance to get involved it’s more likely that they’ll just demolish voting rights so don’t even given them that opportunity-especially if that walking disease Scalia gets involved.

  4. says

    As happened in 2012, 2010, 2008 and 2006, the republicans are pushing these anti-democratic laws through weeks before major elections. Doing it now hurts those least likely to vote republican.

    If they were really concerned about “stopping voter fraud” and not disenfranchising US citizens, they would be pushing these laws through at least a year before elections. Allowing people a year to obtain photo ID cards for voting would help pro-democrat voters the most.

    The only reason to do it now is to commit voting fraud. Preventing registered US voters from exercising their right to vote IS voting fraud.

  5. lanir says

    1. Deception deliberately practiced with a view to gaining an unlawful or unfair advantage; artifice by which the right or interest of another is injured; injurious stratagem; deceit; trick.

    Okay. So basically they’re creating a self-proving prophecy. There is voting fraud because they’re busy wildly misrepresenting the facts to fraudulently disenfranchise voters. I suppose the legal definition of fraud may be a bit more concise and detailed but those aren’t legal proceedings they’re putting in their advertisements and political speeches.

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