Courts & Crime

Appeals court reinstates Texas’ voter ID law; foes vow to go to Supreme Court

A federal appeals court on Tuesday evening reinstated Texas’ controversial voter identification law, striking down a lower court’s ruling that blocked it on grounds it would have “an impermissible discriminatory effect” on Hispanics and African-Americans and is unconstitutional.

The three-judge panel of the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stayed a ruling just five days earlier by U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of Corpus Christi on grounds that it “substantially disturbs the election process of the state of Texas just nine days before early voting begins.”

Just last week, amid a flurry of court rulings on voter ID laws, Ramos had issued a stinging rebuke to the state, likening its photo identification requirement to a poll tax that would impair hundreds of thousands of minority voters from exercising their rights to vote.

The appellate court relied on language from the U.S. Supreme Court in issuing its ruling, saying that the highest court “has repeatedly instructed courts to carefully consider the importance of preserving the status quo on the eve of an election.”

J. Gerald Hebert, a member of the legal team that has fought the ID requirement, vowed an immediate appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Unfortunately, the Fifth Circuit’s stay will end up maintaining the confusion that has been caused by the state’s error-riddled attempted implementation of the photo ID law over the last year,” said Hebert, executive director of The Campaign Legal Center.

“It is deeply troubling that the court of appeals would allow an unconstitutionally discriminatory voter ID law to deny to the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of African-American and Hispanic voters so as not to inconvenience Texas election officials by informing them that they could no longer demand photo ID.”

Last Thursday, on the same day Ramos issued her ruling, the Supreme Court blocked a federal appeals court from allowing Wisconsin’s voter identification requirement to take effect, granting a stay just weeks before the election.

On Oct. 1, a federal appeals court panel barred the state of North Carolina from implementing two provisions of a voting law that civil rights groups had attacked as a massive voter suppression law. The appeals court panel, in a 2-1 ruling, said that the state must allow voters to register on the same day they cast their ballots and could not block out-of-precinct ballots from being counted in this November’s election.