Supreme Court Leaves Hundreds of Thousands of Texans Without the Ability to Vote

Date
Issues

This morning, in Veasey v. Perry, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to stop a Texas photo voter ID (SB 14) law from being used in the upcoming election, despite the fact that one week earlier a U.S. District Court ruled the law unconstitutionally racially discriminatory and a poll tax.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit had subsequently stayed that ruling, leaving SB 14 in effect due to concerns that striking down the law now would disturb the upcoming election. The Campaign Legal Center is part of the legal team representing voters and elected officials adversely impacted by the law, and has argued that permitting the photo ID law to remain in effect will cause more confusion for voters and election officials.

“Today’s inaction by the Supreme Court is a bitter disappointment and a travesty of justice for hundreds of thousands of validly registered Texas voters who will be unable to exercise their right to vote in the November elections,” said J. Gerald Hebert, Executive Director of The Campaign Legal Center.  “It is appalling that the Supreme Court could not muster five votes to protect the rights of all Texas registered voters to cast ballots on Election Day, especially since a lower court, after a year of factual discovery and a two week trial, had found the law intentionally racially discriminatory and deemed it a ‘poll tax.’  The conservative majority on the High Court mistakenly decreed in Shelby County that racially discriminatory voting practices were rare, but to the extent such discrimination continued, victims of such discrimination could obtain injunctive relief.  That was a false promise to the American people.”

Justice Ginsburg issued a scathing dissent criticizing the court’s failure to protect the rights of Texas voters:

“The greatest threat to public confidence in elections in this case is the prospect of enforcing a purposefully discriminatory law, one that likely imposes an unconstitutional poll tax and risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters.”

On Wednesday, Texas voters and elected officials had filed an emergency application with the Supreme Court to vacate the appeals court stay.  The application emphasized that the Court of Appeals misapplied Supreme Court precedent on “voter confusion” and stressed that the confusion would actually be far greater if the law is in effect for the coming election.  Sworn declarations from county election officials in Texas making this point accompanied the emergency application.  Yesterday, the voters filed a reply brief taking exception with the arguments in opposition made by the State of Texas.

The first challenge to the law was filed by the Campaign Legal Center in the summer of 2013 claiming that the voter photo ID law (SB 14) violates the 1st, 14th, 15th and 24th Amendments to the Constitution, as well as Section 2 of Voting Rights Act.  Several challenges (including one brought by the United States) were then brought against the Texas law, which was one of the most restrictive laws in the nation.  All of the cases were consolidated in the Southern District of Texas in Corpus Christi. 

The Campaign Legal Center is part of the legal team that includes Chad Dunn and K. Scott Brazil (Brazil & Dunn), Neil G. Baron, David Richards (Richards, Rodriguez & Skeith), Armand Derfner (Derfner, Altman & Wilborn), Luis Roberto Vera, Jr. (LULAC) and Craig M. Wilkins and Teresa G. Snelson (Dallas County District Attorney’s Office).

To read the order of the Court, click here.

To read the reply brief filed in response to the State of Texas’ brief, click here.

To read today’s emergency application for a stay, click here.

To read the Fifth Circuit Court’s opinion granting a stay pending appeal, click here.

To read the Legal Center's Brief in Opposition to the Emergency Motion to Stay Final Judgment Pending Appeal (October 12, 2014), click here.

To read the opinion of the District Court, click here