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Texas AG files brief in 5th Circuit defending state’s voter ID law

By David Yates | Oct 18, 2017

AUSTIN – On Oct. 17, Attorney General Ken Paxton detailed his support of Texas’ voter ID law in a brief filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit ahead of a hearing scheduled for the week of Dec. 4 in New Orleans. 

Last month, a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit stayed a lower court ruling that blocked Texas from enforcing voter ID. In a majority opinion, the 5th Circuit concluded that Texas made a strong showing that it is likely to prevail in the case.

In his brief, Paxton told the 5th Circuit that the legislature passed Senate Bill 5 last session to comply with all the changes to the voter ID law (Senate Bill 14 from 2011) ordered by the court: “Any potential injunction of SB 5 must await a new case, and the claims against SB 14 cannot continue, as they are now moot.”

The revised voter ID law allows registered voters without a required photo identification to cast a ballot by signing a sworn declaration of reasonable impediment stating why they couldn’t obtain photo ID.

“The plaintiffs cannot identify a single person who faces a substantial burden to voting under this reasonable-impediment exception,” Paxton wrote. “As the 5th Circuit panel noted, each of the 27 voters identified in the record – whose testimony underlies plaintiffs’ claims – can now vote without photo ID. Accordingly, the case should be over.”

The 5th Circuit’s earlier ruling means that an interim court remedy is in place for this year, preserving the requirement of photo ID while allowing those without an accepted ID to vote by signing a sworn declaration stating that they have a reasonable impediment to obtaining one.

Senate Bill 5, which amended the voter ID law to comply with a prior 5th Circuit ruling, takes effect in 2018.

In August, a district court in Corpus Christi granted a permanent injunction against the voter ID law, defying the U.S. Department of Justice, which asked the court to end efforts to overturn the law.

The DOJ said it was satisfied Senate Bill 5 “eradicates any discriminatory effect or intent” and expands voter identification options.

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