Voter ID laws stand in Texas as Supreme Court declines to intervene

SCOTUS Blog reports that the U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene Saturday morning in a Texas case challenging restrictive voter identification laws, which are in place in the state for the first time in a federal election. This effectively upholds a ruling by the 5th Circuit permitting the laws to remain in place for the upcoming November election, despite findings by the district court that the measures violate civil rights.

A federal district judge in Corpus Christi granted a permanent injunction of the voter ID laws, holding that they violated the Voting Rights Act because they had a racially discriminatory purpose and would yield discriminatory results. The judge also found the laws to be an unconstitutional poll tax because of the costs associated with obtaining the specific forms of ID required by the laws. The 5th Circuit granted a stay of the district court's injunction, citing concerns that the election was imminent, and effectively allowing the restrictive measures to remain in place. Because the Supreme Court chose not to intervene, this ruling will stand until further order of the 5th Circuit, which still has to hear a full appeal of the case. The laws, passed in 2011, have been in effect since 2013, but never during a federal election.

Neither the 5th Circuit or the Supreme Court has ruled on the constitutionality of the laws at this point, and SCOTUS Blog reports that it is likely that the case will return to the Supreme Court after the 5th Circuit hears the full appeal. The Supreme Court's decision in this case was entered without explanation, although there is a lengthy dissent penned by Justice Ginsburg and joined by Justices Sotomayor and Kagan, in which Justice Ginsburg states, "the greatest threat to public confidence in elections in this case is the prospect of enforcing a purposefully discriminatory law, one that likely imposes an unconstitutional poll tax and risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters."

This case is one in a number of cases regarding voting and electoral issues that have been brought to the Supreme Court in recent weeks. In September the Court granted a stay in Ohio, eliminating some additional early voting time ordered by a federal district court. In early October the Court blocked restrictive voter identification measures in Wisconsin, but upheld some restrictive measures in North Carolina.