In this Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014 photo, a voter casts his ballot at an early voting polling site, in Austin, Texas.
Eric Gay/AP

Appeals court revives Texas’ voter-ID law

Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos not only ruled against Texas’ voter-ID law, she did so in a powerful and forceful way. The 147-page opinion reads like a beautiful recitation of history, before concluding that the voting restrictions imposed by Texas Republicans for no reason violates both the remaining provisions of the Voting Rights Act and the constitutional prohibition against poll taxes.
Ramos also found “that the law not only had the effect of discriminating against minorities, but was designed to do so.”
It did not, however, last long. Zach Roth reported last night:
A U.S. Appeals Court has ruled to put Texas’s strict voter ID law back in place for the upcoming election. […]
A three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday afternoon unanimously stayed an order issued Saturday by U.S. District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos that had blocked the controversial law…. “Based primarily on the extremely fast-approaching election date, we STAY the district court’s judgment pending appeal,” Judge Edith Brown Clement, an appointee of President George W. Bush, wrote. It cited Purcell v. Gonzalez, a 2006 case in which the Supreme Court stopped an Arizona voting law from going into effect close to an election, to avoid causing confusion among voters.
Of course, if the goal was to make the process less confusing, Texas is moving in the wrong direction. Roth added in a separate report that the 5th Circuit may have revived the voter-suppression law, “but while the state was pushing to get the law reinstated, it stopped issuing IDs. It said Wednesday morning that it has started again. The on-again-off-again schedule could add to the hurdles and confusion that voters face in obtaining an ID. And it offers a window into the GOP-controlled state’s approach to voting: In a nutshell, critics say, Texas jumped at the chance to stop issuing IDs, even though it was far from clear that a halt was required by law.”
What an extraordinary – and wholly unnecessary – fiasco in a state where over 600,000 registered voters don’t have the kind of ID Texas now expects them to show for the first time in order to cast a ballot. The policy has already caused voting problems in the Lone Star State and those problems are poised to get considerably worse.
As long as we’re on the subject of voter-ID laws, there’s another perspective that deserves broader attention. Brad Friedman had this report yesterday:

If you read just one top-to-bottom dismantling of every supposed premise in support of disenfranchising Photo ID voting restrictions laws in your lifetime, let it be this one [PDF].

It is a dissent, released on Friday, written by Judge Richard Posner, the Reagan-appointed 7th Circuit Court of Appeals judge who was the one who approved the first such Photo ID law in the country (Indiana’s) back in 2008, in the landmark Crawford v. Marion County case which went all the way to the Supreme Court, where Posner’s ruling was affirmed.

If there was ever evidence that a jurist could change their mind upon review of additional subsequent evidence, this is it. If there was ever a concise and airtight case made against Photo ID laws and the threat they pose to our most basic right to vote, this is it. If there was ever a treatise revealing such laws for the blatantly partisan shell games that they are, this is it.

His dissent includes a devastating response to virtually every false and/or disingenuous rightwing argument/talking point ever put forth in support of Photo ID voting restrictions, describing them as “a mere fig leaf for efforts to disenfranchise voters likely to vote for the political party that does not control the state government.”

Posner is generally considered influential in legal circles, especially on the right. Here’s hoping his concerns are taken seriously.