Unless a federal judge intervenes, the South Texas city of Edinburg could be the first to enforce a new voter ID law next week, and lawyers will likely use the special election to gather evidence to strengthen lawsuits to block it in the future. While the U.S. Justice Department and several civil rights groups have filed federal lawsuits to block the requirement that voters produce a state-issued photo ID, no one as of Friday had asked for a restraining order to stop enforcement of the law. That means it will be in effect when early voting in the city’s special election begins Wednesday. Allowing Texas to enforce the law could be part of a larger legal strategy to defeat it in the long run. Texas has been the center of the fight over voting laws after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that Congress must update how it enforces the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Texas is the only state in the last three years where a federal judge has ruled the Legislature intentionally discriminated against minorities.
Federal judges in Corpus Christi are hearing two cases opposing Texas’ voter ID law: One filed in June by Democratic U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, the League of United Latin American Citizens, the NAACP and Dallas County and a new one filed Thursday by the Justice Department. Both cases will likely be combined by Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos, an Obama administration appointee.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott insists there is nothing wrong with the voter ID law and says enforcing it is critical to preventing fraud in upcoming elections. He also points out that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that states may require a photo ID to vote.
Opponents, though, say that’s only if the requirement doesn’t make it too difficult for people, particularly minorities, to cast ballots.