Texas’ five-year-old voter identification law — among the nation’s strictest — will face a fresh round of probing Tuesday in a long-winding lawsuit that may ultimately end up at the U.S. Supreme Court. The 15-judge U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans will hear arguments from both Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller and attorneys for opponents of the law, which include minority and voting rights groups. The case asks whether the state discriminated against Hispanics, African-Americans and low-income Texans in passing the law, which stipulates which types of photo identification election officials can and cannot accept at the polls.
Voting rights experts are watching closely, saying this is one of two such battles, alongside one in North Carolina, that could determine at what point states that assert that they are protecting the integrity of elections cross over into disenfranchisement.
So far, both a federal district court and a panel of 5th Circuit judges have ruled that the Texas requirements violate the U.S. Voting Rights Act. Nonetheless, the law has been enforced at polling locations around the state since 2013.
The outcome in New Orleans could determine whether the rules remain in effect for the presidential election in November. The U.S. Supreme Court set a July 20 timetable for the appeals court to rule.