[JURIST] A US federal appeals court on Tuesday said [opinion, PDF] that Texas may enforce its voter ID law [SB 14] despite a lower judge’s ruling that the law is unconstitutional. A three-judge panel of thUS Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit [official website] temporarily reinstated the law but declined to rule on its merits, stating that the state’s November election was too close to make such a change. The law requires the showing of a photo ID in order to vote. Prior to its passage, a voter could choose from a much larger list of options, including bills [NYT report], to act as identification. The ruling, according to the court, seeks to eliminate any confusion that the lower court’s ruling, which called the law racially discriminatory, might cause for voters and poll workers.
State voter ID laws [JURIST backgrounder] have been highly contested in dozens of US states in recent years. Rights groups argue that voter ID legislation is an attempt by conservatives to preserve their political power through voter suppression of minorities. Arkansas, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia are just a few of the states currently embroiled in litigation with state residents and civil rights advocacy groups over their voter ID legislation. Last week US District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos filed a permanent injunction [JURIST report] against the enforcement of SB 14, the Texas voter ID law. Earlier this month a Texas judge filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] challenging SB 14 in state court, claiming that it violates the Texas Constitution. Also this month the US Supreme Court [official website] blocked [order, PDF] a similar Wisconsin voter ID law from going into effect before the upcoming election. In August 2013 the US Department of Justice [official website] filed [JURIST report] a petition against the law, rejecting [JURIST report] SB 14 on the grounds that the law would have a disproportionate impact on the state’s minority voters, and that the law is potentially discriminatory.