Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott [official website] on Friday appealed a federal judge's order blocking the enforcement of provisions of the state's voter registration laws. Abbott asked the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit [official website] to stay the order blocking enforcement of the law arguing that it will cause confusion among voters. Among the provisions blocked is a restriction that only deputy registrars may register voters only in their own counties. Opponents of the voter registration laws filed suit last year arguing that the laws suppress voter registration and violate the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA) [materials].
Numerous new laws regulating voters' rights have resulted in controversy. There are now more than 30 US states [NCSL backgrounder] that require voters to present some form of ID at the polls, including 17 states that have passed laws that require a photo ID. Last month Chris Elmendorf of the University of California, Davis School of Law, wrote [JURIST op-ed] that recent statistical findings may contribute to courts declaring Section 5 of the VRA to be unconstitutional, while simultaneously strengthening the provisions of Section 2. Unlike the preclearance rules of Section 5, Section 2 nationally prohibits election laws that "result" in minority voters having "less opportunity than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice." In May Elmendorf wrote [JURIST op-ed] that the "purpose" rather than the "effects" prong of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act may offer a better basis to challenge recent state regulations of the voting process. The DOJ relied on the "effects" prong of Section 5, which requires that a new law not have a retrogressive effect on racial minorities' political participation, in denying preclearance to Texas in March, and to South Carolina [JURIST report] in December.