In the latest, and perhaps final, round on Texas?s strict voter ID Law or Senate Bill 14, the Supreme Court ruled 6 to 3 last week in favor of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals thereby letting stand the restrictions for the upcoming elections.? The decision overturns the ruling of U.S. District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos, appointed by President Obama, who had condemned the measure ten days ago.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in her dissenting opinion, cut to the chase on how this law will impact Black and Hispanic voters in particular.? ?The potential magnitude of racially discriminatory voter disenfranchisement counseled hesitation before disturbing the District Court findings and final judgment,? Ginsburg wrote.? ?Senate Bill 14 may prevent more than 600,000 registered Texas voters (about 4.5 percent of all registered voters) from voting in person for lack of compliant identification.? A sharply disproportionate percentage of those voters are African American or Hispanic.?
An additional implication, though she did not say it, was that these voters usually supported Democratic candidates.? That the law is based on a false premise, that is, needed to check fraud at the polls, which is virtually nonexistent, is again a motivation stemming from GOP advocates.
The Fifth Circuit Court based its ruling on the looming election, said Judge Edith Brown Clement, an appointee of President George W. Bush.? She cited Purcell v. Gonzalez, a 2006 case in which the Supreme Court stopped an Arizona voting law from going into effect close to an election, which they concluded might cause confusion among voters.
In her dissent Ginsburg was joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.? The majority opinion was filed by Justice Antonin Scalia, though no details were available.
What the Justice Department had asked the court to do, according to several experts, was to remove an order by the Fifth Circuit Court that allowed the voter ID law to be used in the upcoming general election.? There is nothing new about the law that?s been on the books for several years except that it has never been used in a federal general election.
Moreover, Justice Ginsburg placed the state?s history of discrimination against minority voters in a broader context, noting that Texas ?has been found in violation of the Voting Rights Act in every redistricting cycle from and after 1970?the state?s long history of official discrimination in voting, the statewide existence of racially polarized voting, the incidence of overtly racial political campaigns, the disproportionate lack of minority voting officials, and the failure of elected officials to respond to the concerns of minority voters.?
If the law stands, and there is a possibility of the Justice Department taking another stab at it, it will mean the state?s imposition of one of the harshest ID laws in the country and will be poised to dismiss photo ID from its colleges or Veterans Affairs.? Voters without the proper ID will have to obtain it from the Department of Public Safety, which means some 400,000 voters will have to make a round trip of more than three hours, and they must have a birth certificate and $20.
What it boils down to is a reinstitution of Jim Crow laws in which such disenfranchisement tactics included the Grandfather Clause, poll taxes, and literacy tests.?? And this decision by the Supreme Court may have an impact on other states seeking to impose the same restrictions.
The bad old days of voter suppression are clearly back with a fresh form of denial.