Polling station voters sign (79332)
Credit: Nia Sanders

In a move signaling a shift in direction when it comes to the Department of Justice in the nation, President Donald Trump ordered a delay in the hearing of the Texas voter ID law case.

Reports indicated a change in administration was the reason for the delay. The U.S. Supreme Court announced this week it will not hear arguments at this time over the strict photo ID law in Texas.

“The United States requires additional time to brief the new leadership of the department on this case and the issues to be addressed at that hearing before making any representations to the court,” government lawyers said. “This motion is made in good faith and not for the purposes of delay.”

The full Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down voter ID laws as racially discriminatory last summer in Texas. Approximately 600,000 registered voters did not have the acceptable ID required under the law as originally written.

The decision was the latest in the yearslong battle over the law, which plaintiffs argued discriminated against Black and Latino voters in the state and was the strictest law of its kind in the nation. The Supreme Court’s decision leaves intact the determination that the ID requirement has a discriminatory effect.

“Texas enacted a common sense voter ID law to safeguard the integrity of our elections, and we will continue to fight for the law in the district court, the Fifth Circuit, and if necessary, the Supreme Court again,” said Texas Attorney Gen. Ken Paxton.

A federal court in Washington, D.C., first blocked Texas’s voter ID law in 2012 under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, finding that the law would have a disproportionate negative impact on minority citizens in Texas. In June 2013, however, the U.S. Supreme Court in a separate case ruled that the formula used in the Act for specifying the states covered by Section 5 is unconstitutional.

Texas is not currently required to comply with Section 5. Just hours after the Supreme Court’s decision, then-Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced the state would implement the voter ID law.
The Texas State Conference of the NAACP and the Mexican-American Legislative Caucus of the Texas House of Representatives challenged the Texas law in September 2013. That case was consolidated with other similar cases and is now known as Veasey v. Abbott.

“It has been an incredible waste of taxpayer monies and state resources to challenge what any reasonably objective person knows—that the law is plainly and simply discriminatory against racial and ethnic minorities,” said Gary Bledsoe, president of the Texas NAACP and an attorney with the Bledsoe Law Firm. “Judges appointed by presidents of both political parties have so held repeatedly.”