Voting rights groups hailed court decisions Thursday that blocked Wisconsin and Texas from implementing new voter photo identification laws four weeks before next month’s elections.
In a 6-3 ruling, the Supreme Court late Thursday reinstated a permanent injunction to prevent Wisconsin’s 2011 law that requires voters to show photo ID at the polls from taking effect.
Chief Justice John Roberts joined Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Anthony Kennedy and Sonia Sotomayor in blocking the law. They gave no reason for their decision.
Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented. They wrote that
the Supreme Court couldn’t vacate an appeal court’s decision to allow the law to go forward unless there was clear evidence that the appeals court erred.
Voting rights advocates, who charge that a spate of new voting laws in various states, discriminate against minorities who may not have sufficient identification to go to the polls under the laws.
‘We are please with the Supreme Court’s decision, which will once again allow all registered Wisconsin voters to cast their ballot in the upcoming election – regardless of whether or not they have a driver’s license or other state-issued photo ID,’ said Penda Hair, co-director of the Advancement Project, a voting-rights group. ‘These voters have a fundamental right to vote, a right that should not be denied by politicians who manipulate the voting rules weeks before Election Day.’
State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos expressed disappointment that the law approved by Republican Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-controlled Wisconsin legislature was blocked.
‘It’s disappointing,’ Vos told The Milwaukee Journal. ‘It’s broadly supported by the public. We showed in every way possible we could handle it. It’s a common sense idea that should go forward.’
In Texas, a federal district court judge Thursday determined that the state’s Republican-backed voter ID law is discriminatory and violates the Voting Rights Act. The Justice Department in court has blasted Texas’ as an effort to suppress minority votes.
In her decision, U.S. District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos labeled Texas’ law a poll tax because it would require voters without state-approved photo ID or a birth certificate to pay a fee to obtain a copy of one.
She added that the unconstitutionality of the law also ‘lies in the Texas Legislature’s willingness and ability to place unnecessary obstacles in the way of a minority that is least able to overcome them.’
‘It is too easy to think that everyone ought to have a photo ID when so many do, but the right to vote of good citizens of the State of Texas should not be substantially burdened simply because the hurdles might appear to be low,’ she wrote. ‘For these plaintiffs and so many more like them, they are not.’
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office said it would challenge Ramos’ ruling, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported Thursday.
‘The State of Texas will immediately appeal and will urge the 5th Circuit to resolve this matter quickly to avoid voter confusion in the upcoming election,’ Abbott spokeswoman Lauren Bean said, according to the newspaper.
The NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund praised Ramos’ decision.
‘The court recognized today that Texas’s photo ID law is a problem in search of a solution’ Ryan Haygood, director of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund’s Political Participation Group said Thursday.’