The Supreme Court rejected on Monday an appeal from Texas officials seeking to restore the state’s strict voter ID law. As is the court’s custom, its brief order in the case, Abbott v. Veasey, No. 16-393, gave no reasons for turning down the appeal. But Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. issued an unusual statement explaining that the Supreme Court remains free to consider the case after further proceedings in the lower courts. The Texas law, enacted in 2011, requires voters seeking to cast their ballots at the polls to present photo identification, like a Texas driver’s or gun license, a military ID or a passport. Federal courts have repeatedly ruled that the law is racially discriminatory. The Texas law was at first blocked under Section 5 of the federal Voting Rights Act, which required some states and localities with a history of discrimination to obtain federal permission before changing voting procedures. After the Supreme Court effectively struck down Section 5 in 2013 in Shelby County v. Holder, an Alabama case, Texas officials announced that they would start enforcing the ID law.
After a two-week trial in 2014, Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of Federal District Court in Corpus Christi struck down the law on Oct. 9 in a 147-page opinion. She said that it had been adopted “with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose” and that its effect was to disenfranchise “a disproportionate number of African-Americans and Hispanics.”
In 2015, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, vacated part of the ruling concerning the law’s purpose but affirmed the part concerning its effect. Last July, the full Fifth Circuit largely adopted the panel’s distinctions and reasoning, and it returned the case to the trial court to consider an appropriate remedy.