Civil rights groups challenging Texas’ voter identification law are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to block the measure from being used during the 2016 general election.
The civil rights groups filed a motion Friday with the Supreme Court asking it to vacate a Fifth Circuit ruling that has allowed the voter ID law to continue being implemented unchanged and to reinstate an injunction against the measure. The groups also asked the high court to consider giving the federal court in Corpus Christi limited jurisdiction over the case to issue a new injunction.
Requiring one of seven forms of valid ID, Texas’ voter ID law is considered one of the most stringent in the country. The Legislature passed the measure in 2011, and it has been the subject of litigation ever since.
Following the October 2014 ruling by the federal court in Corpus Christi, the Fifth Circuit allowed the law to stay in effect while the state appealed to avoid disrupting the elections that took place weeks after.
But the civil rights groups argue the Fifth Circuit’s stay has now stretched nearly 18 months and has “injured Texas voters in two more statewide election cycles in 2015 and 2016, and, unless vacated, will very likely cause further injury by allowing enforcement of an invalid state law again during the 2016 Texas general elections.”
Lawyers for the groups asked the Fifth Circuit last week to reverse its decision allowing the law to stay in effect, but the court said it would not consider that motion until it rehears the case in the last week of May.
The civil rights groups say the Fifth Circuit’s schedule is likely to prevent them from getting a ruling in time for the 2016 elections. Texas starts its election preparations in June, just days after the full appeals court will revisit the case.
See here for the background, and here for a copy of the application to vacate the Fifth Circuit ruling. Bear in mind that the federal district court judge put a stay on the law in her 2014 ruling, but on appeal the Fifth Circuit lifted the stay, with the Supreme Court concurring, on the grounds that it was too close to the election to change all the procedures that had been put in place to inform people about voter ID. Whatever you think of that ruling, there’s plenty of time to change things now, unless of course the Fifth Circuit runs out the clock, which some people think was their intent. I presume a 4-4 ruling means that the stay will not be reinstated, so the plaintiffs will need to hope for the good Anthony Kennedy to show up. We’ll see how it goes. SCOTUSBlog, The Hill, and NBC News have more.