Under the Obama administration, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) waged legal war against the voter ID rules Texas lawmakers passed in 2011, saying the new restrictions would disproportionately impact minority voters. That finding was later validated by multiple federal court rulings, two of which concluded the state’s GOP majority passed a deliberately racist bill. This week brought another sign of the 180-degree change on voting rights cases under the Trump administration’s DOJ, which on Monday filed a legal brief that argues Texas should be allowed to fix its voter ID rules without federal intervention or oversight. The filing also argues that the courts should simply trust Texas to educate voters on the tweaked voter ID law the Legislature passed earlier this year, despite the state’s faceplant trial run when it tried to implement those rules during last year’s presidential election. Experts say it’s a remarkable argument, given the history of the state’s years-long legal struggle to implement some version of a voter ID law that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg once called “the strictest regime in the country.”
Opponents of Texas’ new voter ID law asked a federal judge this week to return the state’s election rules to the days when people could access the polls with a voter registration card. Texas has been embroiled in a legal battle over its voter ID laws since 2011 when the Republican-controlled Legislature passed Senate Bill 14, claiming it was necessary to address Texans’ voter fraud concerns. Buoyed by the election of President Donald Trump, who claims he lost the popular vote in November to Hillary Clinton because 2 million people voted illegally, Texas claims in court filings that changes it’s made to its voter ID law sufficiently address the concerns of the Fifth Circuit that found SB 14 disenfranchises minorities, who are more likely to vote for Democrats.
Texas: Will Federal Judges Be Able to Fix Texas Voting Rights Before 2018 Elections? | The San Antonio Current
While Texas lawmakers dive into an encore legislative session at the capitol this month, a few high-ranking federal judges are quietly weighing whether or not the legislature intentionally passed laws that discriminate against minorities. These decisions are based on two separate, long-brewing cases, both rooted in Texas election laws, both rushing to wrap up before the looming 2018 election cycle, and both guaranteed to significantly shake up national politics. The first legal battle began in 2011, when the Texas Legislature drafted new state and congressional districts to keep up with the quickly-expanding population. Most of those new Texans were Latino and African American — a shift that eventually made white Texans a minority population in the state. According to voting rights advocates and federal judges, conservative lawmakers weren’t eager about their new black and brown (and predominantly Democrat) neighbors. So, they claim, the GOP-led legislature redrew district lines to dilute the votes of new black and brown Texans.
Federal courts should trust Texas to properly educate voters on new ID rules ahead of the 2018 elections instead of insisting that money be spent on a marketing campaign, President Trump’s justice department argued in a filing Monday. The filing, part of the Trump administration’s recent support for Texas in its years-long battle over the state’s 2011 voter ID law, comes despite widespread criticism of Texas’ voter education efforts ahead of the 2016 election. U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos is considering what, if any, consequences Texas should face following her April ruling that lawmakers intentionally discriminated against minority voters by passing the nation’s strictest voter ID law six years ago.
In July 2013, North Carolina lawmakers passed the Voter Information Verification Act – known more commonly as voter ID. It’s a controversial law that was ultimately struck down in federal court for being unconstitutional. Nearly four years later, state legislators are now working on another voter ID bill that would be taken to voters as a constitutional amendment, according to sources. Republicans widely support voter ID, and Democrats – making up a small minority – would likely not be needed to approve a measure. “We are a hundred percent committed to the idea of voter ID and we are still working out the logistics of what we believe to be the most sure-fired way to get voter ID implemented that will withstand the inevitable challenges that will come from the left,” said David Lewis (R-Harnett), the Rules Chairman of the North Carolina House.
Paul Gieringer let Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft talk for half an hour, explaining the state’s complicated new voter ID law to a crowd of two dozen at the local community center, before raising his hand. “How many cases of voter fraud have there ever been in Missouri?” Gieringer, 61, asked. “We know it’s happened,” said Ashcroft, 44, noting that he didn’t have any hard numbers, although he cited a 2010 incident in which a couple claimed a false address on their voter registration forms to vote in a primary election. “How many are an OK number? Is it OK to have one or two?” The Republican secretary of state didn’t mention that the new law he’s traveling the state to promote — aimed at combating voter impersonation — wouldn’t have stopped the couple, a fact his office later confirmed. “He brought up the red herring of voter fraud,” Gieringer later told NBC News.
One of the toughest voter ID laws in the country might soon be back in use, only this time with a stamp of approval from the Department of Justice. On Wednesday, the department submitted a brief to the U.S. District Court in Corpus Christi, Texas, in support of the state’s Senate Bill 5. The legislation is currently facing a lawsuit in that court from plaintiffs who claim it discriminates on the grounds of race. In its current form, it requires voters to have an authorized photo ID—driver’s license, passport, military identification, or gun permit—or a signed affidavit and other identifying documentation, like a utility bill, in order to cast a ballot. This is the third time a Texas voter ID law has gone through the courts, each time through Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos, who in 2014 called a 2011 bill’s even stricter ID requirement—it didn’t offer affidavits as an option—a “poll tax without the tax.”
Texas’ new voter identification law fully absolves the state from having discriminated against minority voters in 2011, and courts should not take further action in a battle over the state’s old voter ID law, President Donald Trump’s Department of Justice argued in a legal filing Wednesday. “Texas’s voter ID law both guarantees to Texas voters the opportunity to cast an in-person ballot and protects the integrity of Texas’s elections,” the filing stated. Federal lawyers were referring to Senate Bill 5, which Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law last month. It would soften a 2011 voter ID law — known as the nation’s most stringent — that courts have ruled purposefully burdened Latino and black voters. If allowed to take effect, the law would allow people without photo ID to vote if they present alternate forms of ID and sign affidavits swearing a “reasonable impediment” kept them from obtaining what was otherwise required.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach suffered another setback in an ongoing voter ID case with the American Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday, after a federal judge refused to reconsider an order requiring Kobach to sit for a deposition and pay a $1,000 fine for misleading the court. On June 30, U.S. Magistrate Judge James O’Hara fined Kobach for misleading the court as to the nature of the voting and immigration policy documents he shared with President Donald Trump in a November meeting. Kobach asked O’Hara to reconsider, contending that last-minute changes to the court filing led to the misleading information. Kobach also asked O’Hara to reconsider the deposition requirement, stating it might prevent him from acting as counsel in the case due to a potential conflict of interest. He also said the deposition was “intended to harass, annoy, or embarrass” him.
A recall election in a town of about 45 people is expected to be among the first tests of North Dakota’s new voter identification law later this year. The new law, passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed by Gov. Doug Burgum in late April, goes into effect Saturday, July 1, along with a swath of other bills. July 1 marks the beginning of a new two-year funding cycle known as a biennium. Proponents of the new law said it will help protect the “integrity” of North Dakota elections while addressing concerns raised by a federal lawsuit over voter ID requirements passed in the previous two legislative sessions.