Early last month, a three-judge, U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeal panel affirmed the lower District Court's finding that Texas' draconian polling place Photo ID restriction (SB14), which threatens to disenfranchise 608,470 legally registered voters (and many others not already registered), violates federal law.
That ruling marked the third occasion in which a federal court has expressly found that the TX Republicans' strict ID law disparately impacted minorities and the poor. "Hispanic registered voters and Black registered voters," the 5th Circuit appellate panel observed in their recent ruling, "were respectively 195% and 305% more likely than their Anglo peers to lack [the requisite Photo] ID" now required to cast a vote at the polls under SB 14.
While the ruling ostensibly struck down SB14, finding it in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), as we have previously explained, those 600k+ lawfully registered voters remain at risk of disenfranchisement during this Fall's 2015 elections and the 2016 Presidential cycle because the appellate panel failed to lift an "emergency" stay of the District Court's original permanent injunction intended to prevent enforcement of an unlawful Photo ID statute.
The failure of the appellate court to lift the stay on the lower court's no-uncertain-terms ruling may not have been problematic if, as contemplated by the 5th Circuit decision's mandate, the case were to be promptly returned to the District Court, which it directed to re-examine a separate issue --- whether the TX Legislature had a "discriminatory purpose" when it enacted SB14. That prompt remand would have permitted the District Court to fashion an interim remedy. Indeed, in its decision, the appellate panel suggested that the District Court issue an order directing TX to accept valid voter registration cards, in lieu of a very narrow handful of state-approved Photo ID, for all voting-related purposes. The 5th Circuit panel also, perhaps somewhat naively, called upon TX to cooperate in the prompt fashioning of that remedy.
Oh, that silly 5th Circuit panel...