Lawyers seeking to overturn the state’s voter ID law on Friday asked all 14 judges on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to void a prior ruling that allowed Texas to continue using the law for elections this year.
If the law was allowed to continue, the petition said, “Texas voters will once again be forced to attempt to exercise a fundamental right within a racially discriminatory voting scheme until this case is resolved.”
Friday’s request was the latest twist since U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of Corpus Christi ruled that the Republican-drafted law violated the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution because it was “enacted with discriminatory intent — knowingly placing additional burdens on a disproportionate number of Hispanic and African-American voters,” who tend to support Democrats.
Ramos also ruled that changes adopted by the Legislature in May could not fix a 2011 voter ID law that was written to intentionally discriminate, and on Aug. 23 she issued a permanent injunction barring enforcement of the law.
Attorney General Ken Paxton appealed, and on Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the appeals court temporarily blocked Ramos’ injunction. The panel’s 2-1 decision said Texas can continue requiring voters to show a photo ID at the polls while the state appeal proceeded.
“A temporary stay will allow this court to hear oral arguments and rule on the merits while preserving the status quo,” the majority said, adding that allowing Texas to continue enforcing the voter ID law “will minimize confusion among both voters and trained election officials.”
The majority also said Senate Bill 5, signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott on June 1, appeared to solve any problems by letting registered voters without a required photo ID to still cast a ballot by showing a paycheck, utility bill or other document that lists a name and address and by signing a “declaration of reasonable impediment” stating why they couldn’t obtain photo identification.
In Friday’s petition, lawyers opposed to the voter ID law said Texas should not be allowed to enforce an intentionally discriminatory law while the state’s appeal continues.
With oral arguments scheduled for early December, any delay “threatens the possibility of a complete remedy before the 2018 statewide primaries” in March, the lawyers argued.
In addition, the lawyers asked the entire 5th Circuit Court to take over the voter ID case, bypassing the typical three-judge panel, as a way to speed the case toward a final resolution.