Trump Department of Justice Seeks and is Granted Postponement of Hearing on Texas Photo ID Case

January 20, 2017

Today at 4:41 p.m. ET, only hours after the inauguration, the Department of Justice requested to postpone Tuesday’s hearing in the Texas photo ID case, which was granted. The Department was scheduled to argue that the state had intentionally discriminated against Latino and African American voters when it passed the ID law.  

The DOJ had previously argued that the hearing should occur expeditiously. The hearing has been rescheduled for Feb. 28. 

Background

A federal court in Washington, D.C. first blocked Texas’s voter ID law in 2012 under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, finding that the law would have a disproportionate negative impact on minority citizens in Texas. In June 2013, however, the U.S. Supreme Court (in a separate case) ruled that the formula used in the Act for specifying the states covered by Section 5 is unconstitutional. As a result, Texas is not currently required to comply with Section 5. Just hours after the Supreme Court’s decision, then-Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced the state would implement the voter ID law.

In September 2013, the Texas State Conference of the NAACP and the Mexican American Legislative Caucus of the Texas House of Representatives, or MALC, challenged the Texas law. That case was consolidated with other similar cases and is now known as Veasey v. Abbott. The attorneys representing the groups include the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the national office of the NAACP, Dechert LLP, The Bledsoe Law Firm, the Law Offices of Jose Garza, the Law Office of Robert S. Notzon, and the Covich Law Firm, P.C.

At the September 2014 trial, the Texas NAACP and MALC, the Department of Justice, and 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 court credited testimony that African-American registered voters are 305 percent more likely and Latino registered voters 195 percent more likely than white registered voters to lack photo ID that can be used to vote.

An October 2014 opinion by U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos concluded the photo ID requirement violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, imposes an unconstitutional burden on the right vote, was passed by the Texas legislature with the intent to discriminate, and constitutes an unconstitutional poll tax. The judge ordered that Texas cease implementing the law, but the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the law to remain in effect for the 2014 election.

In July 2016, the full Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision finding the law had a racially discriminatory effect in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The appellate court also reversed and remanded the district court’s discriminatory intent finding for further review. That hearing was scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 24.

Read more on the case here and here

Contact:

Rebecca Autrey

Brennan Center

646-292-8316

rebecca.autrey@nyu.edu

Summer Luciano

MALC

512-236-8410

sluciano@malc.org

Gary Bledsoe

Bledsoe Law Firm

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

512-799-4744

robert@notzonlaw.com

Jose Garza

Law Office of Jose Garza

210-392-2856

garzpalm@aol.com

Stacie Burgess

Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

202-662-8372

press@lawyerscommittee.org

Beth Huffman

Dechert LLP

215-994-6761

beth.huffman@dechert.com