An unexpected U.S. Supreme Court order setting aside a voter ID law in Wisconsin could spell trouble for Texas as it tries to appeal a federal judge’s ruling striking down Texas’ own photo-identification requirement. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott was taking steps Friday to appeal the decision overturning the Texas law. But some election law experts pointed to the Supreme Court’s order blocking implementation of Wisconsin’s similar voter ID requirements before the Nov. 4 election. The high court, 6-3, handed down an emergency order in the Wisconsin case over the objections of the panel’s three biggest conservatives — Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. The majority, including Chief Justice John Roberts, provided no explanation in the order. Because the Texas and Wisconsin laws are similar — with Texas’ law considered the strictest in the nation — Abbott’s appeal could run into a roadblock even if he is initially successful with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. That is where he will lodge his appeal of Thursday’s decision by U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of Corpus Christi.
“Even if the Texas ruling is stayed by the 5th Circuit, there is a strong likelihood that the Supreme Court will do the same thing in the Texas case that it did in Wisconsin because the evidence is much stronger and because Texas, unlike Wisconsin, has a history of voter discrimination,” said Buck Wood, an Austin lawyer who’s an expert on election laws. Wood testified for the plaintiffs in the voter ID trial last month.
In a 147-page opinion, Ramos said the Texas law discriminates against and violates the voting rights of minority and low-income voters. She also pointed out that the Wisconsin law is the “most similar” to Texas’ statute out of all the voter ID laws enacted across the U.S.
Both states require voters to show a specified photo ID card to vote. The accepted IDs include a driver’s license, a state-issued personal ID card, a passport, a U.S. military ID card and a U.S. citizenship certificate.