Voting Rights Tempest

So another shoe drops in the brewing judicial tempest over voting rights: a three-court panel of federal district judges in DC ruled unanimously that Texas’s new voter ID law does not pass muster under the Section 5 review required by the Voting Right Act. Rick Hasen of Election Law Blog has a good summary:

[T]he court concludes that Texas, which bears the burden of proof in a section 5 case, cannot prove its law won’t make the position of protected minorities worse off. And the court suggests this was a problem of its own making: Texas could have made the i.d. law less onerous (as in Georgia, which the court suggests DOJ was probably right to preclear) and Texas could have done more to produce evidence supporting its side at trial, but it engaged in bad trial tactics.

Now Texas will appeal to the Supreme Court for an emergency stay of the ruling so that it can use its new Voter ID system on November 6, but it’s unlikely the Court would overturn a finding of fact without some deliberations. On a separate track, Texas has asked the District Court to consider the constitutionality of Section 5–a subject already certain to make its way to the Supremes from several directions. It’s worth remembering that in a separate decision earlier this week, a DC District Court panel struck down Texas’ congressional and state legislative redistricting for this cycle on Section 5 grounds, though it probably won’t keep the new lines from being used on November 6.

This all points to a “landmark decision” by the Supreme Court on various voting rights issues early next year. Look out, voters!

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.