Supreme Court Upholds Voter ID
Declines to vacate the Fifth Circuit's ruling
By Amy Kamp,
7:05AM, Sat. Oct. 18, 2014
The U.S. Supreme Court has issued the final word (for now) on Texas' voter ID law.
As we reported in last week's issue, the Fifth Circuit stayed an injunction that would have blocked the law from being enforced, citing earlier cases where the Supreme Court had resisted changing laws when an election was imminent. The Supreme Court's order contained no reasoning, but simply upheld the Fifth Circuit's decision.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, joined by Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, issued a six-page dissent, arguing that the difference between this case and the others is that Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos' injunction was permanent, "following a full trial and resting on an extensive record from which the District Court found ballot-access discrimination by the State." She went onto say that the test the Fifth Circuit should have used was not how close to election day the injunction came, but rather the standard test used to evaluate the stay of an injunction: "applicant’s likelihood of success on the merits and whether applicant would suffer irreparable injury absent a stay." Ginsburg disagreed also with the Fifth Circuit's contention that the change of law would disrupt the election, since the injunction simply required a return to the law that was in effect before the current voter ID law.
Ginsburg cited Ramos' finding that Texas' efforts to educate poll workers and the public about voter ID have been "woefully lacking," and argued that "any voter confusion or lack of public confidence in Texas’ electoral processes is in this case largely attributable to the State itself." After discussing the ways in which the law may operate as an unconstitutional poll tax, Ginsburg concluded, "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."