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Federal court gives Texas permission to appeal voter ID law ruling

A three-judge panel in the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] on Monday granted [opinion, PDF] permission to Texas officials to immediately appeal a ruling [JURIST report] that rejected a Texas law [SB 14 text] requiring voters to present photo identification to election officials before casting their ballots. The court had ruled [opinion, PDF] in August that the retrogressive effect within the law necessarily invalidated it under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) [text, PDF]. Texas officials can now begin the process of appealing to the US Supreme Court [official website]. The Supreme Court granted certiorari [JURIST report] in November in Shelby County v. Holder [docket, cert. petition, PDF] to determine whether Congress exceeded its authority when it renewed Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 [Cornell LII backgrounder]. Section 5 requires jurisdictions with a history of preventing minority groups from voting to receive preclearance from the US Department of Justice or a three-judge panel of the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official websites] before making any changes to their voting laws. Shelby County, Alabama, which is a jurisdiction covered by Section 5, has contended that Section 5 violates state sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment and also exceeds Congress' authority under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments [text]. The case is on appeal from the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] which upheld the constitutionality of Section Five [opinion; JURIST report].

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] rejected the Texas law [JURIST report] in April, noting that SB 14 would have a disproportionate impact on the state's Latino voters, and that the law is potentially discriminatory. The charge came only a month after the DOJ sent a letter [JURIST report] claiming that the law violated Section 5 of the VRA. There are currently 33 US states [NCSL backgrounder] that have passed legislation requiring voters to present some form of ID at the polls, including 17 states requiring photo ID. The issue remains legally controversial, most notably in South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Minnesota [JURIST reports].

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