A federal three-judge panel in Washington is pushing the Justice Department and Texas lawyers to work overtime to reach a quick decision on the legality of the state’s controversial voter photo ID law. The judges made it clear they want a decision in time for Texas to be able to implement its law — provided it passes legal muster — by the November general election. “It’s a big election year. We need to get it done,” District Judge Rosemary Collyer told federal and state lawyers in a telephone conference call. The judges have conducted recent conference calls with lawyers in an open courtroom, allowing media representatives to listen to the discussions as all sides haggle over timelines of depositions and discovery. Reaching a quick decision will not be easy.
The Justice Department wants a trial, which would tentatively begin July 30, but they must first show evidence that Texas intentionally sought to discriminate with the new requirement. Lawyers for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott are pushing the judges to make a ruling by August 15, so counties can prepare for the new law requiring a photo ID.
But Texas also is challenging portions of the Voting Rights Act that they officials say infringe on the state’s sovereignty and impede with its ability to implement election laws. If Texas appeals early procedural rulings to the U.S. Supreme Court, an expedited timetable likely will be thrown out the window.