AUSTIN -- Texas filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court Sept. 23, requesting reinstatement of the Lone Star State's voter ID law. The petition comes as growing numbers of states enact voter identification laws in a bid to allegedly prevent election fraud.
That's the rationale supporting Texas's voter ID law, Texas Attorney General Paxton explained in a news release. When contacted, Paxton's office declined to comment any further.
“Safeguarding the integrity of our elections is essential to preserving our democracy,” Paxton said. “Voter ID laws both prevent fraud and increase the public’s confidence in our elections. Texas enacted a common sense voter ID law and I am confident that the U.S. Supreme Court will ultimately reinstate it.”
Critics say otherwise, including Joseph R. Fishkin, a professor of law at University of Texas. ¨The broad trend toward enacting and tightening photo ID laws has to do with partisanship,¨ Fishkin told SE Texas Record in an email response to questions.
Voting ID laws have become more common across the United States in recent years, particularly in states with Republican governors and GOP majority rule in legislatures. Eighteen U.S. states require voters to show photo IDs before being allowed to cast their ballots.
¨It is almost exclusively Republican legislatures that have lately enacted strict photo ID laws; Democratic legislators oppose them,¨ Fishkin said. ¨Both parties seem to agree these laws will probably help Republicans at the margins by keeping some voters home on election day, more of whom are Democrats than Republicans.¨
Enacted in 2011, Texas's voter ID law in considered among the most restrictive in the nation.
¨Texas' law has a very narrow set of allowed IDs, and more important, until the changes ordered by federal courts this fall, it did not provide any real 'escape hatch' for those who didn't have the required ID, Fishkin said. "That has changed with the injunction now in effect for this election.¨
The state's own research shows that more than 600,000 eligible voters lack one of the required IDs. Lower-income minorities are prominent among this group, black and Hispanic voters in particular.
Reversing lower court decisions, the Fifth, and then the Fourth, U.S. District Court of Appeals created a judiciary split when they ruled the law violates the Voting Rights Act and ordered the state to rescind the law before November's elections. That prompted Paxton to file the state's petition to SCOTUS to reinstate the law.
According to the petition: “Plaintiffs have not demonstrated that any particular voter ... cannot get the necessary ID or vote by absentee ballot under [Texas’ voter-ID law]. Nor is there evidence that Texas’ voter-ID law affected political participation by minority voters.¨
The Texas attorney general's petition goes on and contends the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court's decision ¨was based solely on a statistical racial disparity in preexisting ID possession, the general correlation of race and socioeconomic status, and a nine factor analysis developed for vote-dilution claims.¨
Furthermore, the Fifth Circuit contravened U.S. Supreme Court precedents by remanding the plaintiffs’ discriminatory-purpose claim after vacating the district court’s finding, the Texas AG asserts. Subsequently, Texas legislators produced thousands of documents and gave lengthy depositions as part of an unprecedented discovery process that did not reveal any evidence of discriminatory purpose during the drafting, proposal and vote on the bill that became the Texas voter ID law.
Seven federal judges have concluded that Texas' voter ID law is discriminatory during the past four years. According to a NPR news report: ¨It's not so much the fact that Texas wanted to require a photo ID in order for registered voters to be allowed to vote; it was the kind of IDs that would and would not pass legal muster.¨
For instance, the law recognizes concealed handgun carry permits and military IDs as valid forms of ID. State university photo IDs and state employee IDs don't qualify. Gerry Hebert, who led the legal team for the plaintiff, contends the GOP's intent was to shift the state electorate in their favor.
Voter turnout in Texas is among the lowest in the nation, Rebecca Robertson, legal and policy director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas, pointed out in commenting on the Texas AG's SCOTUS petition.
¨[T]he real question is why Attorney General Paxton would waste upward of $3.5 million taxpayer dollars [and counting] defending a law that disenfranchises more than 600,000 eligible voters,¨ Robertson said in a news statement.