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Politics

Deadline Approaches for Texas Voter ID Law, But It Likely Won't End the Legal Battle

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Todd Wiseman
/
Texas Tribune

The deadline for a federal appeals court to rule on the state’s controversial voter ID law is fast approaching. The U.S. Supreme Court gave the court until July 20 to make a decision about whether the law violates federal civil rights law. But, no matter what happens, this likely isn’t the end of this legal battle.

First of all, the fact that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals even has a deadline on this is the first indicator that this case is pretty unique.

“Rarely does a circuit court get told by the Supreme Court to decide something by a particular date,” says Joseph Fishkin, a professor at UT Austin’s School of Law. He says there’s a lot that’s novel about this case.

For one, this is a test of Section Two of the Voting Rights Act, the provision that prohibits states and local governments from setting laws that discriminate against minorities. The last few times people have challenged voting procedures using this part of the law, it’s been for how political districts are drawn. But, as Fishkin says, this case is about who can vote and who can’t.

“That set of issues hasn’t been adjudicated under Section Two before. So, that’s why I think most observers agree that one way or another, whether it’s the Texas case or the North Carolina case, that question will go up to the Supreme Court.”

Texas has strict guidelines for what kind of ID voters can use at the polls. Laws like this are relatively new, and they’re growing in popularity – especially in Republican-led states. So, like Fishkin says, it’s almost inevitable that this will go before the Supreme Court, which is why there’s this deadline.

“The Supreme Court doesn’t want to be sitting there with that emergency petition in October,” Fishkin said.

He says any decision here will likely be appealed, and historically the court has been opposed to ruling on voting rights cases so close to an election. So far, Texas’ law has been struck down by various courts. Research has shown the state’s law makes it harder for low-income people, young people, and minorities to vote. State leaders have defended the law, though. They say it’s an effort to protect the state from voter fraud. 

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