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Texas Voter ID Law Unconstitutional

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Justice-Blind-90In an emergency application filed Oct. 15, citizens’ groups’ attorneys said Texas’ voter ID law – which was rammed into law by the Republican-controlled Texas legislature in the 11th hour before the voting this fall – would lead to ‘massive confusion’ among voters and would disenfranchise a disproportionate number of African-American and Latino voters.

The Christian Science Monitor said several minority groups have joined together to ask  the U.S. Supreme Court to block the state of Texas from enforcing its voter ID law in the approaching mid-term elections.

Expert testimony in the case said roughly 600,000 Texans have no driver’s license or other acceptable form of government-issued photo ID.

Republicans disenfranchise Minorities

Houston lawyer Chad Dunn, representing the plaintiffs – civil rights groups and elected officials who include the League of United Latin American Citizens, Texas League of Young Voters, branches of NAACP – said it would be all but impossible for these Texas voters to comply with the ID law between now and Election Day.

Dunn and other attorneys filed the emergency application a day after a three-judge panel from the Fifth US Circuit Court of Appeals blocked a decision by a sane federal judge in Corpus Christi declaring the voter ID law unconstitutional and in violation of the Voting Rights Act.

Judge Ramos gets it Right

In Corpus Christi, US District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos had said that the Republican-controlled legislature adopted the new ID law with a discriminatory purpose, and that requiring would-be voters to pay for a copy of their birth certificate amounted to an unconstitutional poll tax. Judge Ramos enjoined enforcement of the law and ordered Texas to use voting procedures that existed prior to the new measure.

With early voting set to start in less than two weeks, state officials asked the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans to block the judge’s decision and allow the new law to be enforced in the upcoming elections. The Fifth Circuit panel voted 3 to 0 to block Judge Ramos’ decision.

Clement genuflects to Supreme Court

Judge Edith Brown Clement of the Fifth Circuit wrote, “This is not a run-of-the-mill case. Instead it is a voting case decided on the eve of the election.”  She used this fact, the timing of the case, more than any other to bolster her argument to overrule Judge Ramos.

“The judgment below substantially disturbs the election process of the State of Texas just nine days before early voting begins,” she said. “Thus, the value of preserving the status quo here is much higher than in most other contexts.”

Clement said the Texas voter ID law became effective in January 2012 and had been used in three previous elections. Her ruling striking down the ID law was issued last week. She claimed that such a change so close to an election was bound to cause voter confusion, which is a very curious argument if the goal is to encourage more, not fewer, people to vote.

“The Supreme Court has continued to look askance at changing election laws on the eve of an election,” said Clement, noting that in recent weeks the Supreme Court had acted three times to reverse rulings that sought to change the rules for voting on the eve of the approaching elections. She claimed all those rulings were a result of late changes too close to an election. By her logic, the plaintiffs had waited too long to file a complaint about Texas’ exclusionary voter ID law.

Voter ID Court Rulings Timeline

Sept. 24:  The high court reversed a decision by the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati that would have required Ohio officials to add additional hours for early voting to that state’s election process.

Oct. 1:  The court reversed a decision by the Fourth Circuit in Richmond that would have required North Carolina to reinstate provisions allowing same-day voter registration and allowing out-of-precinct voting.

Oct. 9:  The high court reversed a decision by the Seventh Circuit in Chicago that would have allowed a voter ID law in Wisconsin to be enforced in the upcoming elections.

Clement sees Timing as Common Thread

“While the Supreme Court has not explained its reasons for issuing these stays, the common thread is clearly that the decision of the Court of Appeals would change the rules of the election too soon before the election date,” Judge Clement said, adding that the stayed decisions cut both ways, upholding and striking down state statutes and affirming and reversing district court decisions.

In his emergency application to the Supreme Court, plaintiffs’ attorney Dunn said that the better course would be to block Texas’ voter ID law and allow anyone presenting compliant photo IDs to vote, while also allowing anyone presenting IDs authorized under the old law to vote as well.

This would be the easiest and least confusing approach, he said.

“[The Supreme Court] repeatedly has cautioned that lower courts considering last-minute changes to long-established election rules should consider whether enjoinment or enforcement is likely to produce more confusion,” Dunn said.

“Contrary to the Fifth Circuit’s assertions, (the) status quo in Texas remains the rules in effect prior to enactment [of the voter ID law],” he said.

Texas Voter ID Law Unconstitutional

For our part, any law that discriminates against those who have no picture ID is simply unconstitutional. If you lose your driver’s license, you can’t vote? Does that make sense? If you lose your picture ID, then you are no longer a member of the country or the state in good standing and cannot vote? Does that make sense?

To hell with what the Supreme Court thinks or with what Judge Clement thinks the highest court thinks. They’ve been wrong plenty, about plenty of things. We know what makes sense if this country is still to function as any sort of democracy.

Who doesn’t remember the old WWII movies where the Nazia are forever asking the good guys for their papers? We don’t need no stinking papers, at least not a photo ID. We’re Americans! Let us vote!

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