Supreme Court declines to hear Texas appeal on voter ID laws

Supreme Court declines to hear Texas appeal on voter ID laws

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] on Monday declined [order list, PDF] to hear an appeal by Texas seeking to revive the state’s voter identification requirements. The Republican-backed law had been considered one of the strictest in the nation and had previously been contested in court by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website], civil rights groups and individual voters. Under the law, only seven types of government-issued ID were permitted for voting purposes, including a driver’s license, a concealed handgun license, a military ID card or a US passport. State university ID cards or ID issued to obtain welfare benefits were not considered sufficient. Challengers of the law predicted that it made it impossible for up to 600 000 people to vote and that it was unduly harsh on minorities, who typically support Democrats. But supporters of the law argued that it was necessary to prevent voter fraud. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton [official profile], who launched the appeal, stated [press release] that he was disappointed in the decision and that “Texas enacted a common sense voter ID law to safeguard the integrity of our elections, and we will continue to fight for the law in the district court, the Fifth Circuit, and if necessary, the Supreme Court again.”

The Texas voter ID law, first passed in 2011, is one of the strictest in the country. The law was blocked by the DOJ, which previously had the power to review voting changes in some jurisdictions under a preclearance requirement laid out in Sections 4 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act. However, when the Supreme Court struck down [JURIST report] Section 4 in 2013, there was no longer a basis for enforcing the requirement in those jurisdictions. Texas lawmakers announced their plans to reenact the voting law hours after the court’s decision. In October 2014 a district court ruled that SB 14 violates the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the US Constitution and filed a permanent injunction [JURIST reports] against its enforcement days later. However, an appeals court temporarily reinstated the law, stating that the upcoming elections were too close to make a change, and the Supreme Court permitted [JURIST reports] the law to be enforced. In March the appeals court agreed [JURIST report] to reconsider Texas’ voter ID law before the entire court, as opposed to a panel of just three judges. That month, the League of United Latin American Citizens and Congressman Marc Veasy, along with other plaintiffs, filed an application [JURIST report] with the Supreme Court, asking the court to vacate a stay that allowed the voter ID law to remain in place during the 2014 midterm elections. The court did not vacate the stay but stated that if the appeals court did not make a ruling in this case by July 20, then the parties could seek relief from the Supreme Court.