- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Supreme Court allowed Texas to enforce its strict voter identification laws in the upcoming midterms early Saturday morning. The  decision, which came at 5 a.m., was unsigned and contained no reasoning.

The court rejected requests from the Obama administration and civil rights groups, refusing to re-impose an injunction against the law that was granted by a district court judge but lifted by the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Tuesday.

The law requires voters to present a photo ID at the polls before casting their ballot. Acceptable forms of ID include a Texas drivers license, a military ID, passport, or Texas gun license.

All three female Justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, publicly dissented from the decision.

Justice Ginsburg wrote that the requirements, “may prevent more than 600,000 registered Texas voters (about 4.5 percent of all registered voters) from voting for lack of compliant identification.”

She added that most of those voters that would be affected by the law are African American or Hispanic, arguing that “racial discrimination in elections in Texas in no mere historical artifact.”

Texas officials say those numbers are skewed. In their brief asking the justices to allow the Nov. 4 elections to proceed under the law, officials argued that it is nearly impossible to determine the number of people the law would hinder from voting.

But Justice Ginsburg wrote that under the new law Texas will not accept several forms of ID that other Republican states like Wisconsin will, including “a photo ID from an in-state four year college and one from a federally recognized Indian tribe,” and added that the new law “replaced the previously existing voter identification requirements with the strictest regime in the country.”

In a statement released shortly after the Supreme Court’s ruling, Gerald Herbert, Executive Director of The Campaign Legal Center, blasted the decision, calling it a “bitter disappointment.”

“Today’s inaction by the Supreme Court is a bitter disappointment and a travesty of justice for hundreds of thousands of validly registered Texas voters who will be unable to exercise their right to vote in the November elections,” Mr. Herbert said.

The Campaign Legal Center is part of the legal team representing voters and elected officials who oppose the law.

“It is appalling that the Supreme Court could not muster five votes to protect the rights of all Texas registered voters to cast ballots on Election Day, especially since a lower court, after a year of factual discovery and a two week trial, had found the law intentionally racially discriminatory and deemed it a ‘poll tax,’” Mr. Herbert added.

The ruling is the fourth in a series of recent decisions on last-minute election law changes across several different states. The court allowed Ohio to cut early voting by a week and allowed North Carolina to end same-day voter registration, but blocked Wisconsin from implementing a new voter ID law.

• Kellan Howell can be reached at khowell@washingtontimes.com.

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