Equal access to the polls is a concept all Texans can hold dear. Which is why all Texans should welcome a Justice Department lawsuit seeking to block voter ID, which a previous panel of judges already found adversely affected minority voters. Our only complaint with the Justice Department complaint is that it does not seek injunctive relief, though this might come later. At the moment, voter ID is still in effect for the Nov. 5 election, early voting for which begins Oct. 21. The Justice Department might reason that federal judges in San Antonio will rule quickly on a separate case involving Texas’ 2011 redistricting maps. But, these judges are being asked to rule on a seldom-used portion of the Voting Rights Act — Section 3(c). A decision might not come quickly enough. Such a ruling would mean that Texas would have to get its voter ID law precleared by a panel of federal judges or the Justice Department. The state would surely appeal.
Under previous preclearance procedures, a panel of judges in D.C. already denied that approval. The judges pointed to overwhelming evidence that voter ID would slam many of the state’s minorities.
But Texas proceeded with the law after a U.S. Supreme Court invalidated the formula used to determine which states, because of a history of discrimination, must seek preclearance.
Texas has been such a state. And the Justice Department cites that sordid history — recent and more distant — for why now a federal court in Corpus Christi should permanently block voter ID.