In a stinging defeat for the Obama administration and a number of civil rights groups in a major test case on voters’ rights, a divided Supreme Court told the state of Texas early Saturday morning that it may enforce its strict voter ID law for this year’s general election, with early voting starting next Monday. Three Justices dissented from the ruling, which was released a few minutes after 5 a.m. folllowing a seemingly lengthy study. This apparently was the first time since 1982 that the Court has allowed a law restricting voters’ rights to be enforced after a federal court had ruled it to be unconstitutional. A U.S. District Court judge in Corpus Christi struck down the ID law last week after a nine-day trial, but it now awaits review by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which temporarily blocked the trial judge’s ruling. The Justice Department has indicated that the case is likely to return to the Supreme Court after the appeals court rules. Neither the Fifth Circuit’s action so far nor the Supreme Court’s Saturday order dealt with the issue of the law’s constitutionality. The ultimate validity of the law, described by Saturday’s dissenters as “the strictest regime in the country,” probably depends upon Supreme Court review. The Saturday order, for which a number of news organizations had kept a vigil through the night in anticipation of its release, did not disclose how six of the Justices had voted. But, because it would have taken the votes of at least five to have reached the result, it was clear that the order had majority support. The majority gave no explanation for its action.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote a dissenting opinion of more than six pages, joined by Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor. The opinion, though written mostly in even tones, in substance was quite critical of the law, of Texas’s handling of the controversy over the law and its history of racial discrimination, and of the Fifth Circuit for clearing the way for the law to be used.
Much of the Ginsburg opinion closely tracked the arguments that the Corpus Christi judge had enlisted in finding the law to be the result of intentional discrimination, a violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and an unconstitutional poll tax in violation of the Twenty-Fourth Amendment because of the fees required to get a valid ID.
“The greatest threat to public confidence in elections in this case,” Ginsburg wrote, “is the prospect of enforcing a purposefully discriminatory law, one that likely imposes an unconstitutional poll tax and risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters.”
Full Article: The Court won’t interrupt Texas voter ID law : SCOTUSblog.