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Supreme Court Allows Discriminatory ID Law to Stand

The Supreme Court Saturday allowed Texas’s restrictive photo ID law to remain intact for the November 4 election, disenfranchising thousands of Texas voters.

October 18, 2014

For Imme­di­ate Release: Octo­ber 18, 2014

Media contact inform­a­tion at bottom

The U.S. Supreme Court today respon­ded to an emer­gency appeal and upheld a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling allow­ing Texas’s restrict­ive photo ID law to remain intact for elec­tions in Novem­ber, notwith­stand­ing a find­ing of the trial court that the legis­lature enacted the law purposely to discrim­in­ate against Lati­nos and African Amer­ic­ans.

This decision demon­strates the inad­equacy of exist­ing protec­tions against discrim­in­a­tion at the voting booth since the Supreme Court rendered inop­er­able Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder in June of 2013. Texas’s restrict­ive photo ID law had been success­fully blocked  under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, but was rein­stated by the Texas Attor­ney General moments after the Shelby County decision came down. The restrict­ive photo ID law was chal­lenged again, this time under the U.S. Consti­tu­tion and another provi­sion of the Voting Rights Act, Section 2. The trial court issued a 147-page opin­ion with detailed factual and legal find­ings, includ­ing that the legis­lature purposely inten­ded to discrim­in­ate against minor­ity voters when passing the law, and that more than 600,000 registered Texas voters do not possess the ID that is now legally required to vote in the state. The trial court struck down the law, and ordered Texas to revert back to a prior voter ID law for the Novem­ber elec­tions. The Court of Appeals did not ques­tion the trial court’s find­ings, but nonethe­less, ordered the strict photo ID law in place for the Novem­ber elec­tions arguing it was too close to the elec­tions to switch gears. The Supreme Court agreed. As of now, the strict photo ID law will be blocked for elec­tions after Novem­ber.

The ruling comes as many Amer­ic­ans face a shift­ing voting land­scape before head­ing to the polls this Novem­ber. Texas is one of seven states that had a major lawsuit chal­len­ging voting restric­tions ahead of the 2014 elec­tion. The Supreme Court recently blocked imple­ment­a­tion of Wiscon­sin’s strict photo ID law for the Novem­ber elec­tion, but allowed restric­tions to remain in place in North Caro­lina and Ohio. Since the 2010 elec­tion, new restric­tions are slated to be in place in 21 states, 14 for the first time this year.

The Texas State Confer­ence of the NAACP and Mexican Amer­ican Legis­lat­ive Caucus of the Texas House of Repres­ent­at­ives (MALC) chal­lenged the Texas law in Septem­ber 2013. That case and other similar cases were consol­id­ated as Veasey v. Perry. The attor­neys repres­ent­ing the groups include the Bren­nan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, Dech­ert LLP, the Lawyers’ Commit­tee for Civil Rights Under Law, Potter­Bled­soe L.L.P., the Law Offices of Jose Garza, the national office of the NAACP, the Law Office of Robert S. Notzon, and the Covich Law Firm, P.C.

“A court of law found that Texas’ photo ID was enacted with inten­tional discrim­in­a­tion against minor­ity voters and yet that discrim­in­a­tion is being allowed to infect the Novem­ber elec­tions,” said Myrna Pérez, deputy director of the Demo­cracy Program at the Bren­nan Center. “That cannot stand.  We clearly need new laws and protec­tions to ensure our elec­tions are free, fair, and access­ible.”

“The beast of Shelby County and the timing of the decision in that case have now disen­fran­chised hundreds of thou­sands of Texas voters,” stated Gary Bled­soe, pres­id­ent of the Texas NAACP and an attor­ney with Potter Bled­soe. “What a sad day not just for demo­cracy, but also for truth in justice.”

“The right to vote is the corner­stone of our demo­cracy, and it must be protec­ted,” said Repres­ent­at­ive Trey Martinez Fisc­her, Chair­man of MALC. “The courts are supposed to protect voters against discrim­in­a­tion and disen­fran­chise­ment, but the Supreme Court got this one wrong. This ruling is a loss for demo­cracy, as it will make it harder for hundreds of thou­sands of minor­it­ies to vote this Novem­ber.”

“Protect­ing the rights of minor­it­ies to parti­cip­ate in elec­tions is crit­ical to our demo­cracy. The Supreme Court’s decision marks a grave day in the fight for civil justice,” said Ezra D. Rosen­berg of Dech­ert LLPpro bono coun­sel for the NAACP Texas State Confer­ence and MALC. “We are disap­poin­ted in today’s decision, but will continue work­ing to secure voting rights for all.”

“The Supreme Court was wrong to take a hands-off approach to the most extreme voter ID law in the coun­try. Texas elec­tion admin­is­trat­ors from many of the largest counties in the State suppor­ted the district court’s injunc­tion barring use of the State’s discrim­in­at­ory law because of the prob­lems they have faced apply­ing that law even in low-turnout elec­tions,” said Bob Kengle, co-director of the Voting Rights Project at the Lawyers’ Commit­tee for Civil Rights Under Law. “The last thing the Supreme Court ought to do in response to a district court find­ing of inten­tional voting discrim­in­a­tion is to accept Texas’ excuses for using the discrim­in­at­ory law in a general elec­tion.”

At the Septem­ber 2014 trial, the Texas NAACP and MALC, among others, presen­ted evid­ence show­ing the state’s ID require­ment would erect discrim­in­at­ory barri­ers to voting. At trial, experts test­i­fied that 1.2 million eligible Texas voters lack a form of govern­ment-issued photo ID that would have been accep­ted under the new law — and minor­it­ies would be hit the hard­est. For example, the district court cred­ited testi­mony that African Amer­ican registered voters are 305 percent more likely and Hispanic registered voters are 195 percent more likely than white registered voters to lack photo ID that can be used to vote. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals this week over­turned the decision block­ing Texas’s restrict­ive photo ID require­ment from being in effect for the Novem­ber elec­tion.

Read more on the case here and here.

Contact:

Desiree Ramos Reiner

Bren­nan Center for Justice

201–988–5568

desiree.rein­er­@nyu.edu

Stacie Royster

Lawyers’ Commit­tee for Civil Rights Under Law

202–662–8317

sroyster­@law­yer­scom­mit­tee.org

Victor Goode

NAACP National

410–580–5760

vgoode@n­aacpnet.org

Lyndsey Rodrig­uez

MALC

210.218.2642

Lrodrig­uez@malc.org

Beth Huff­man

Dech­ert LLP

215–994–6761

beth.huff­man@­dech­ert.com

Gary Bled­soe

Potter Bled­soe LLP

512–322–9992

garybled­soe@s­b­c­g­lobal.net

Daniel Covich

Covich Law Firm LLC

361–884–5400

daniel@­covich­law­firm.com

Robert Notzon

Law Office of Robert Notzon

512–474–7563

rober­t@notzon­law.com

Jose Garza

Law Office of Jose Garza

210–392–2856

garzpalm@aol.com