Supreme Court gives go-ahead forTexas voter ID law

In an unusual Saturday morning ruling, the Supreme Court allowed the voter ID law in Texas to be used in next month's elections. An injunction against the use of the law was lifted by a lower court and SCOTUS declined to reimpose it.


Three justices — all Democratic appointees — publicly dissented from the decision to allow Texas to use the tougher voter ID standards in connection with the Nov. 4 election: Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

Writing for her two colleagues, Ginsburg said it was a mistake for the appeals court to step in and block the district court’s ruling after a full trial in which the judge concluded the voter ID law passed in 2011 would have a discriminatory impact and was intended to do so.

“Senate Bill 14 replaced the previously existing voter identification requirements with the strictest regime in the country,” Ginsburg wrote. “The potential magnitude of racially discriminatory voter disenfranchisement counseled hesitation before disturbing the District Court’s findings and final judgment. Senate Bill 14 may prevent more than 600,000 registered Texas voters (about 4.5% of all registered voters) from voting in person for lack of compliant identification. A sharply disproportionate percentage of those voters are African-American or Hispanic.”

As is the custom on such emergency applications, the justices who formed the court’s majority did not indicate their rationale in the order the court issued Saturday (posted here) and emailed to reporters shortly after 5 a.m. Saturday. However, in a series of recent rulings on election-related emergency applications from Ohio, North Carolina and Wisconsin, the court has appeared to reject last-minute tinkering with states’ electoral processes.

With varying numbers of justices in dissent, the court allowed Ohio to cut early voting from 35 days to 28 and permitted North Carolina to end same-day voter registration, but denied Wisconsin permission to proceed with a long-blocked tightening of voter ID requirements. All of the measures putting new limits on voting were imposed by Republican-controlled legislatures citing concerns about voter fraud. Democrats and many voting experts say such fraud is almost unheard of for in-person voting.

For Ginsberg to call the voter ID law a "poll tax" is a political attack. And the 600,000 disenfrachised minorities is a totally made up number. Are there really 600,000 people in Texas who can't cash a check, buy liquor, enter a courthouse, buy a plane ticket, or take part in any other activity where a drivers license or state ID card is required? Nonsense.

SCOTUS is apparently willing to allow these voter ID laws to stand in order to avoid confusion at the polls on election day. But once the election is over, the battle will be joined again and the same tired arguments about the "myth" of voter fraud, the deliberate disenfranchsing of minorities, and poll taxes will resurface.

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