Texas Asks Justices to Reinstate Voter ID Law

     (CN) — Texas asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday to uphold its Voter ID law, insisting it is needed to prevent voter fraud despite two lower court rulings that found it discriminatory.
     Texas filed the writ of certiorari asking the Supreme Court to order the Fifth Circuit to send the case up for review, after the en banc Fifth Circuit ruled in late July that Texas’ voter ID law discriminates against black and Latino voters in violation of the Voting Rights Act.
     The New Orleans-based appeals court remanded the case to U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos in Corpus Christi, and told her to craft remedies for the Nov. 8 elections that would undo its discriminatory effect on minority voters.
     She approved a joint plan submitted by the U.S. Justice Department and Texas that allows registered voters to cast their ballot by presenting a certified birth certificate, paycheck or utility bill, and signing a “reasonable impediment” affidavit describing why they could not get one of seven acceptable forms of photo ID.
     Widely regarded as the strictest voter ID law in the U.S., the Texas Legislature passed SB 14 in 2011 and it was signed that year by then-Gov. Rick Perry. By comparison, Virginia has 13 voter ID options, Wisconsin has 12 options, Indiana has 12 and Kansas has 17.
     An estimated 600,000 Texans don’t have the proper ID to vote.
     The Fifth Circuit also asked Ramos to explore whether the Texas Legislature intentionally crafted the law to discriminate against minorities. She has set hearings on that question for after Election Day.
     The Justice Department, Texas State Conference of NAACP Branches, League of United Latin American Citizens and African-American U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, are the plaintiffs in the case.
     In an October 2014 ruling, Ramos cited evidence that undermines the Texas Legislature’s contention that the law is essential to prevent voter fraud.
     “In the ten years preceding SB 14, only two cases of in-person voter impersonation fraud were prosecuted to a conviction – a period of time in which 20 million votes were cast,” she wrote.
     But Texas stuck to that theory in its Friday petition to the Supreme Court and attacked the Fifth Circuit’s finding that state lawmakers may have purposely crafted the law to keep minorities, who generally vote for Democrats, away from the polls.
     “Plaintiffs cannot possibly demonstrate legislative intent to harm minority voting rights, as the record includes a massive amount of privileged, direct legislative evidence confirming that SB 14 was enacted to prevent voter fraud and safeguard voter confidence,” Texas said in its petition, signed by Attorney General Ken Paxton. “Not a shred of evidence suggests that the Texas Legislature had a racially invidious purpose in enacting this voter-ID law.”
     The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas issued a statement in response that reassured Texans they can vote Nov. 8 without an SB 14 ID, and blasted state officials for defending the law at a steep cost to taxpayers.
     “Voters without one of the photo IDs specified in the Texas statute can cast their ballot using other forms of ID. But with Texas’s already abysmally low voter turnout, the real question is why Attorney General Paxton would waste upwards of $3.5 million taxpayer dollars (and counting) defending a law that disenfranchises more than 600,000 eligible voters,” Rebecca L. Robertson, legal director of the ACLU of Texas, said in the statement. “Instead of suppressing the vote, we ought to do everything in our power to ensure that every qualified voter participates.” (Parentheses in original.)
     Despite the lower court rulings, Paxton says he’s certain the Supreme Court will reinstate the law.
     “Safeguarding the integrity of our elections is essential to preserving our democracy,” he said in a statement. “Voter ID laws both prevent fraud and increase the public’s confidence in our elections. Texas enacted a common-sense voter ID law and I am confident that the U.S. Supreme Court will ultimately reinstate it.”

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