30 August 2012

Texas Voter ID Law Struck Down

In a nutshell:
[T]he [unanimous] court bases its analysis [striking down a Texas voter ID law] on three basically uncontested facts:

(1) Minority voters are at least proportionately as likely as white voters in Texas to lack the documents needed for Texas’s new id law (which the Court calls perhaps the most “stringent” in the nation);

(2) the new i.d. law will put high burdens on poor people who lack id (many of whom would have to travel up to 200 or 250 miles at their own expense to get the i.d. as well as pay at least $22 for the documents needed to get the i.d.); and

(3) minority voters in Texas are more likely to be poor.

Using this simple structure, the court concludes that Texas, which bears the burden of proof in a section 5 case, cannot prove its law won’t make the position of protected minorities worse off. And the court suggests this was a problem of its own making: Texas could have made the i.d. law less onerous (as in Georgia, which the court suggests DOJ was probably right to preclear) and Texas could have done more to produce evidence supporting its side at trial, but it engaged in bad trial tactics.

A Texas claim that the Voting Rights Act provision striking down its voter ID law is unconstitutional is unlikely to prevail. An emergency order from the U.S. Supreme court staying the Court's ruling until the election is over is also unlikely.

Earlier this week, the 2012 Congressional redistricting plan for part of Texas by the Republican controlled legislature was also recently found to be invalid and that its drafted intentionally discriminated against minority voters. This ruling keeps the Court redrawn interim maps in place for the November election.

The decision . . . appears unlikely to affect the November elections because those electoral maps were drawn as interim replacements by a federal court in San Antonio. The interim maps were not at issue before the judges in Washington.

Gov. Rick Perry signed the Legislature’s maps into law last summer. But the federal court in Washington refused to grant preclearance, prompting the San Antonio judicial panel to create the interim maps to allow this year’s elections to proceed. The federal judges in Washington presided over a trial in January and issued their decision on Tuesday.
The finding that the redistricting process was conducted by sitting Texas Republicans in the state legislature in an intentionally discriminatory way also undermines an appeal by Texas of ruling invalidating the Texas voter ID law, enacted by the same Republican controlled state legislature, because there is recent judicially found evidence of intentional discrimination in Texas politics that shows that Section 5 preclearance of voting changes for Texas is necessary.

Time is not on the side of Texas in its efforts to appeal the redistricting ruling or the voter ID ruling. The closer a court making a ruling is to election day, the less inclined it will be to use its discretion in a close case to wreck havoc on the complicated electoral process by changing the status quo at the last minute.

Generally speaking, both rulings help Democrats in the state. The rulings are unlikely to impact the Presidential election, however, since Texas is generally viewed as an easy win for Romney anyway and electoral votes in the Presidential race are an all or nothing affair. Polling strongly favors Republican Ted Cruz in the open U.S. Senate race in Texas (which is not affected by Congressional redistricting since it is a statewide race), so that race won't likely be influenced much by these decisions either. But, Texas could have some close Congressional races and the redistricting ruling makes it more likely that the voter ID law ruling will matter in the Congressional races.

In the long run, this ruling once again cements the image of the Republican party as the anti-minority, anti-Hispanic party, which doesn't help them with the nation's long run demographic trends.

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