Bench Memos

Texas Brief in Voter-ID Appeal

Last Thursday, Texas filed its opening Fifth Circuit brief in its appeal of a federal district court ruling against Texas’s voter-ID law. In her remarkable ruling, Judge Nelda Gonzales Ramos (an Obama appointee) held, among other things, that the voter-ID law was an unconstitutional poll tax and that it was enacted with a racially discriminatory purpose. She also ordered Texas to seek her permission before making any other changes to voter-ID laws.

Among the points in Texas’s brief:

(1) The holding that the voter-ID law is a poll tax violates Supreme Court precedent—namely, Justice Stevens’s opinion in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board. (Texas provides free voter IDs. Anyone who needs to obtain a copy of his birth certificate in order to obtain the voter ID can do so for $2-$3. In Crawford, Indiana charged $3-$12 for a birth certificate.) Brief at 13-16.

(2) The U.S. Department of Justice and the other plaintiffs failed to show that the voter-ID law prevented a single person from voting. DOJ lawyers “have crisscrossed Texas, traveling to homeless shelters with a microphone in hand, searching for voters ‘disenfranchised’” by the voter-ID law—but have come up empty. Brief at 20.

(3) Despite the extraordinary and unprecedented fishing expedition that Judge Ramos authorized into the files and e-mails of state legislators and their staff, DOJ found not a single document evidencing a desire to suppress minority voting. Brief at 44-45.

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