Continuing a dramatic reversal on voting rights under President Donald Trump, the U.S. Department of Justice is asking a federal appeals court to allow Texas to enforce a photo voter identification law that a lower court found discriminatory. In a filing Thursday, the Justice Department asked the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to block a lower court ruling that the state’s new voter identification law — Senate Bill 5, enacted this year — failed to fix intentional discrimination against minority voters found in a previous strict ID law, enacted in 2011. Last week, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos tossed SB 5, which in some ways softened the previous requirements that Texans present one of seven forms of photo ID at the polls. The new law “does not meaningfully expand the types of photo IDs that can qualify, even though the Court was clearly critical of Texas having the most restrictive list in the country,” she wrote. “Not one of the discriminatory features of [the old law] is fully ameliorated by the terms of SB 5.” The Corpus Christi judge also completely struck elements of the 2011 ID law, which SB 5 was based upon.
Texas has appealed that decision to the 5th Circuit court, and it’s asking those judges to block Ramos’ ruling while it considers the request.
Siding with Texas, the Justice Department says in its filing that the state has a “strong likelihood” of successfully arguing that SB 5 fixes discrimination in the old law. Allowing SB 5 to take effect will “avoid confusion among voters and election officials,” Thursday’s brief states.
The brief does not mention a key piece of Ramos’ rulings throughout the case: that lawmakers intentionally discriminated against Latino and black voters in passing its 2011 ID law. Findings of intentional discrimination typically allow for more sweeping remedies in court.