For more than 40 years, the state of Texas has had to ask official permission in Washington before it could put into effect any change in the way its citizens vote. A week ago, state officials — relying on the Supreme Court’s new ruling on federal voting rights law — said they would no longer have to do that. Now, however, efforts have begun in two federal courts, 1,600 miles apart, to keep that obligation intact. Those efforts — in Washington, D.C., and San Antonio — are quick sequels to the Court’s decision last week in Shelby County v. Holder (docket 12-96), striking down one key section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but leaving other parts of the law on the books and presumably functioning. One of those other parts, the 1965 law’s Section 3, could provide a method for keeping in force Washington’s legal supervision of Texas voting laws and procedures under another, still-standing provision, Section 5.
Relying on the Shelby County decision, lawyers for Texas formally asked three-judge U.S. District Courts in Washington and San Antonio to end challenges to new election districting maps for the state legislature and for the state’s delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives. Because of the Supreme Court’s ruling, the attorneys argued, those lower courts had lost jurisdiction to veto Texas voting laws before they could go into effect.
In the Shelby County decision, the Justices struck down Section 4 of the 1965 law, which provided the formula that determined which state and local governments had to seek official preclearance of their voting laws under Section 5. The Court said it was not reviewing the validity of Section 5. But Texas officials have argued that, without Section 4, Section 5 would not apply to Texas any longer.
The state’s redistricting maps, state Attorney General Greg Abbott said in a public statement last week, “will not need to go through the lengthy and costly federal preclearance process because of Tuesday’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.” He added that the preclearance process also would not apply to the state’s new voter ID law.
Full Article: New Texas voting disputes : SCOTUSblog.