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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Texas Seeks to Enforce Discriminatory Voter ID Law Before Presidential Election

Posted By on Wed, Aug 17, 2016 at 8:05 AM

  • Erik (HASH) Hersman via Flickr creative commons
Ahead of the November election, Texas will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to let it reinstate a strict voter ID law the nation’s most conservative appeals court blocked last month upon determining that it discriminates against minorities.

While Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office has yet to file the appeal (they won’t say when they will), AG spokesman Marc Rylander told the Express-News that the office would soon seek to overturn the federal Fifth Circuit appeals court’s ruling in order to “protect the integrity of voting in the State of Texas.”

The Fifth Circuit’s July 20 ruling echoed the conclusion of a lower federal court that had said Texas’ law, which requires people to show one of seven state-sanctioned IDs in order to vote, carried an “impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African Americans.” The Fifth Circuit sent the case back down to the lower court, which brokered a temporary fix with the state in time for the fast-approaching general election. (The Fifth Circuit also asked the lower court to, at a later date, reconsider whether Texas lawmakers were intentionally or unintentionally racist when they passed a law that clearly targeted black and brown voters.)

That court-mediated settlement between Texas and the Mexican-American Legislative Caucus and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, which sued over the voter ID restrictions, was supposed to expand the acceptable forms of ID allowed at the polls this upcoming election. That fix alone, voting rights advocates say, would help an estimated 600,000 eligible voters who don't have one of the forms of state-issued ID required by the law. The state also made the curious decision of hiring a PR firm with a history of representing big tobacco and military dictatorships to educate voters about changes to the law. 

It seems those temporary fixes are now up in the air, as Paxton's coming appeal to the Supremes means the legal jockeying over voter ID will continue as we edge closer to the general election. 

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