UPDATED Wednesday 9:35 a.m. An application for a delay of the Texas voter ID law has now been filed at the Supreme Court. It argued that more confusion will result from implementing that law than delaying its further enforcement. The application can be read here.
UPDATED 6:24 p.m. Lawyers for civil rights groups challenging the Texas voter ID law said on Tuesday afternoon that they will now ask the Supreme Court to block the law. The Justice Department is also involved in the case, but its plans are not known at this time. The Court has recently taken different approaches to new voting restrictions, blocking them in Wisconsin but allowing them to remain in place in Ohio and North Carolina.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on Tuesday afternoon gave the state of Texas permission to enforce its strict voter ID law, finding that a federal judge’s ruling last week barring the use of that law “substantially disrupts the election process . . . just nine days before early voting begins” next Monday.
The three-judge panel commented that the Supreme Court “has repeatedly instructed courts to carefully consider the importance of preserving the status quo on the eve of an election.” That was a controlling reason, it said, for permitting the law to govern voting in the remaining days before the November 4 election.
The challengers have the option of taking the issue on to the Supreme Court; their plans, however, have not been made known yet.
Circuit Judge Edith Brown Clement wrote the opinion, joined in full by Circuit Judge Catharina Haynes. Circuit Judge Gregg J. Costa went along only with the result, saying that he interpreted recent Supreme Court actions in voting rights cases as expressing “concern about confusion resulting from court changes to election laws close in time to the election.” That view, he said, should “carry the day” for purposes of temporarily blocking changes that otherwise would go into effect.
Thus, Judge Costa did not go along even with the part of the Clement opinion which concluded that state officials had “made a strong showing” that the it was likely to win on the merits, “at least as to its argument that the district court should not have changed the voting identification laws on the eve of the election.”
The Clement opinion, though, did not appear to express a view on whether, when a final ruling is made on the validity of the voter ID law, that it would be upheld. Aside from the majority’s view on the strength of the state’s argument about changes with the election imminent, the opinion said that other issues on the merits of the law “are significantly harder to decide.”