A Texas law could leave 600,000 would-be voters out in the cold this election season. Attorney General for the state of Texas, Ken Paxton, is standing by a voter identification law that was passed in 2011, which would keep minority and young voters out of the presidential elections in November. Paxton has been quoted as saying that the law is “necessary to protect the integrity of of elections”
As CNN reported, on May second of this year, the Supreme Court said that it may step in to evaluate the situation if a lower court does not resolve the matter by July 20th. Civil rights groups took the challenge to the Supreme Court in the first place, sparking this conversation. Conservative states are the ones who tend to have the strictest voter ID laws, and the rules in Texas are the strictest in the entire country. In order for a citizen to exercise their constitutional right to vote, they must produce one of seven forms of identification.
From The Economist: ”University IDs don’t count, but gun licences do. People who show up empty-handed on election day may still vote, but their ballot will be destroyed unless they pay a visit to the registrar’s office within six days to prove their identity with one of the acceptable forms of identification. There are very few exceptions: only voters with religious objections to having their photo taken and those who are disabled or are victims of a natural disaster may vote without identification. So, “my licence was ripped apart in a tornado” could get you into the voting booth, but “I’m a college kid with an out-of-state driver’s licence and an ID from the University of Texas” will not.”
Though the law was passed in 2011 it was not enacted until a divided Supreme Court, effectively struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by a 5-to-4 vote, freeing nine states, mostly in the South, to change their election laws without advance federal approval. After first being challenged in Federal district court in the weeks before the 2014 election, we saw Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos struck it down, saying that is a violation of the 1st, 14th, 15th, and 24th amendments. She also noted a “clear and disturbing pattern of discrimination against minorities in the name of combating voter fraud” in Texas.
In August of last year a panel of three judges was appointed to a Fifth Circuit court of appeals panel to examine the law. They found the law to be discriminatory in effect and that it violated the nature of the Voting Rights Act, but the panel did not make any moves to put the law on hold. And now, after some time has passed and civil rights groups have pressed the issue with the Supreme Court, the full Fifth Circuit (15 judges) with rehear the case at the request of officials in Texas. With one of the most conservative appeals courts in America, it is likely that Texas will uphold the law.
The time constraints leading up to the November presidential election are tight, and we will see if the resolution will come in time for some additional 600,000 voters to participate, or if the law will be upheld indefinitely.