With bill-killing deadlines looming, some Texas Republicans are trying to unstick legislation that would overhaul the state’s voter identification rules, saying failure to do so would torpedo the state’s position in a high-profile court battle over whether lawmakers disenfranchised minority voters. Inaction, they fear, would dramatically boost the odds Texas would return to the list of governments required to seek federal approval before changing their election laws.
Last year, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Texas lawmakers discriminated against minority voters by enacting one of the nation’s strictest voter identification laws in 2011. And in April, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos upped the ante: She ruled the state discriminated on purpose. That raised the possibility that she might invoke a section of the Voting Rights Act and put Texas under federal election oversight.
Responding to those rulings, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and other Republicans have pointed to Sen. Joan Huffman’s Senate Bill 5, which in some ways softens current ID rules, in order to call scrutiny of the 2011 law moot and counter arguments that Texas can’t be trusted to protect minorities’ voting rights.