SCOTUS declines to intervene on voter ID


Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

The Supreme Court said Saturday that Texas can use its controversial new voter identification law for the November election.

A majority of the justices rejected an emergency request from the Justice Department and civil rights groups to prohibit the state from requiring voters to produce certain forms of photo identification in order to cast ballots. Three justices dissented.

The law was struck down by a federal judge last week, but a federal appeals court had put that ruling on hold. The judge found that roughly 600,000 voters, many of them black or Latino, could be turned away at the polls because they lack acceptable identification. Early voting in Texas begins Monday.

The Supreme Court’s order was unsigned, as it typically is in these situations. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented, saying they would have left the district court decision in place.

“The greatest threat to public confidence in elections in this case is the prospect of enforcing a purposefully discriminatory law, one that likely imposes an unconstitutional poll tax and risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters,” Ginsburg wrote in dissent.


The court had intervened in three other disputes in recent weeks over Republican-inspired restrictions on voting access. In Wisconsin, the justices blocked a voter ID law from being used in November. In North Carolina and Ohio, the justices allowed limits on same-day registration, early voting and provisional ballots to take or remain in effect.

Ginsburg said the Texas case was different from the clashes in North Carolina and Ohio because a federal judge held a full trial on the Texas election procedures and developed “an extensive record” finding the process discriminated against ballot access.

The order came out early Saturday morning, which makes SCOTUSBlog‘s analysis of it, published at 5:32 AM, all the more impressive. Look, this sucks, but let’s not fall into despair over it. We hadn’t expected there to be a ruling on voter ID before the election, which is why the good guys have been preparing for it to be in place. Neither the Fifth Circuit ruling nor the SCOTUS ruling has anything to do with the merits of Judge Ramos’ opinion. That will come later, as well as a ruling on whether or not Texas should be put back under preclearance via Section 3 of the Voting Rights Act. Feel angry all you want about this, but please don’t feel depressed. That just plays into the suppressionists’ hands. PDiddie, Nonsequiteuse, the Texas Election Law Blog, and Newsdesk have more.

What effect will this actually have? It’s hard to say, and no, the earlier elections we had, with turnouts less than ten percent and involving the hardest of the hardcore voters, don’t suggest anything. It would be nice to have some objective data, and we may get it this time around.

U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro requested Friday that the Government Accountability Office analyze voter turnout in Texas this year to determine if the state’s voter identification law – which earlier this week was reinstated by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals – disproportionately impacts the voter turnout of minorities.

In his letter to Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, the San Antonio Democrat asked the GAO to compare voter turnout in Texas to other states; analyze the cost and prevalence of various forms of identification; examine voter outreach; and determine the pervasiveness of in-person voter fraud.

“Regardless of political posturing, the essence of democracy rests in the right to vote – when that right is threatened so is our democracy and freedom,” Castro wrote in his letter.


The Government Accountability Office said it did receive Castro’s letter but would not make a decision for a few weeks on whether to investigate.

We’ll see what happens. I doubt actual data will sway proponents’ opinions, but it would still be nice to have. Regardless, bring your ID when you vote, and remember that only by voting in sufficient numbers can we prevent terrible laws like that from being passed. Early voting hours and locations for Harris County are here. For those of you in my neck of the woods, please note that the Moody Park location is open again after having been closed for the past two elections due to construction. I’ll be keeping track of the daily totals as they get posted. On the absentee ballot front, there have been 32,128 mail ballots returned so far, with the analysis showing that Democrats in Harris County have the lead. As we have discussed before, that’s a testament to the HCDP’s mail ballot program. I’ll be very interested to see what those numbers look like when they get posted at 7 PM on November 4.

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