The state filed an emergency application with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking a stay of last week’s ruling striking down two Texas congressional districts while it appeals the decision.
“This is not déjà vu all over again,” the state argued. “This time around the map found wanting by the district court is the district’s court [sic] own remedial map subsequently enacted into law by the Legislature.” The state asserted that the district court’s timeline will not allow adequate time for appellate review before October 1, the date cited as the deadline by which a map must be set in order for the 2018 primary election to proceed as scheduled. The state is expected to file a similar application for yesterday’s ruling striking down nine Texas House districts.
The state filed an emergency motion with the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals seeking a stay of Wednesday’s ruling striking down its Voter ID law while it appeals the decision. “The State acted precisely as this Court suggested” when it passed Senate Bill 5 during the regular legislative session, but the district court’s ruling “has now permanently enjoined the State from using any type of photo-voter-ID requirement” (emphasis theirs). The state requested a ruling by September 7 in order for the Secretary of State to finalize language on voter registration certificates.
Both cases have taken long, winding journeys through the courts since the Legislature enacted their underlying laws in 2011.
Maps drawn by the Legislature for Congress and the state House of Representatives were never used following the same district court’s drawing of new maps, delaying the 2012 primary elections. The Legislature adopted districts largely following the court’s maps in 2013. It took several years – and three election cycles – before the court determined that the 2011 maps intentionally discriminated against minorities and the 2013 maps did not correct some of those deficiencies. Remedial hearings are scheduled to begin on September 5.
Federal courts have ruled that the Voter ID law discriminates, sometimes intentionally, against minority voters five times:
- August 2012 – Three-judge federal panel ruled the law violated the Voting Rights Act by disproportionately placing its costs upon lower-income and minority voters, and the requirement was not used in the November 2012 general election. The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling in a similar case prompted Texas to go forward with implementation for the 2014 election.
- October 2014 – U.S. District Judge Nelda Gonzales Ramos ruled the law imposed an unconstitutional burden upon voters, was passed with an intent to discriminate and was in effect a poll tax. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals stayed that decision (and the U.S. Supreme Court agreed), allowing the law to be used for the November 2014 general election.
- August 2015 – A three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court ruling that the law had a discriminatory effect, but it remanded the issue of intentional discrimination back to the district court and vacated the poll tax portion of the decision.
- July 2016 – The full Fifth Circuit, reviewing the case en banc, ruled that the law had a discriminatory effect and ordered the district court to craft a rule that would remedy the effect for the November 2016 general election. It also affirmed remanding the issue of intentional discrimination back to the district court; and
- April 2017 – Judge Ramos again ruled that the Legislature enacted the Voter ID law with the intention to discriminate against minority voters.
The parties were ordered to file memoranda by August 31 discussing whether an evidentiary hearing should be held for the consideration of further relief.
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