The Supreme Court Clears the Way for the 'Most Stringent' Voter ID Law in America

The Atlantic
The Supreme Court Clears the Way for the 'Most Stringent' Voter ID Law in America
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The Supreme Court Clears the Way for the 'Most Stringent' Voter ID Law in America

After the Supreme Court voided a key provision of the Voting Rights Act mandating federal review of new voting rules in some regions, Texas quickly announced plans to move forward with a voter ID law that the government found discriminatory. On Thursday morning, the Supreme Court got rid of the last obstacle to its doing so.

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The Texas law, which passed in 2011, mandates that voters show ID in order to cast a ballot. The Department of Justice blocked implementation of the policy the following March under the "preclearance" stipulations of the Voting Rights Act. Data compiled by the state indicated that Latinos were substantially less likely to have state-issued forms of identification. Mandating that voters show such ID, then, would necessarily disenfranchise more Latinos than non-Latinos.

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The state sued. That case, Texas v. Holder, ended with another loss for Texas, with the D.C. District Court calling the law "the most stringent in the country." The state then asked the Supreme Court to reconsider, with the apparent aim of eviscerating the law entirely.

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After Tuesday's decision, there was no more need. By Tuesday afternoon, the state leapt into action, as the Huffington Post reports.

“With today’s decision, the State’s voter ID law will take effect immediately," Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said in a statement. "Redistricting maps passed by the Legislature may also take effect without approval from the federal government.”

On Thursday morning, in one of its last acts before ending its term, the Supreme Court decided not to review the case, instead throwing out the District Court's decision, a legally required move that has the effect of removing any impediment to Texas' voter reforms.

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SCOTUS Blog reports on what comes next:

[I]t vacated separate rulings by three-judge U.S. District Courts in Washington, D.C., and told those courts to look again at federal challenges to those laws. …

When the district courts take up the cases anew, the three-judge panels will have the option of ordering a new round of written arguments, on the impact of the Shelby County ruling, or proceeding on the basis of the cases as they stood when Texas filed separate appeals at the Supreme Court.

A Fort Worth Congressman and seven other state residents have already filed a federal lawsuit, asking the courts to declare the rule unconstitutional. Were a court to do so, or if the D.C. Circuit makes such a determination, it's unlikely the law would be halted without a series of legal challenges.

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In other words, the law may end up at the Supreme Court anyway. If this week is any indicator, it might not find a hostile audience when it got there.

Photo: Eric Holder addresses the VRA decision on Tuesday. (AP)

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