Election 2016

Texas, US Justice Department Clash In Appeals Court Over Voter ID Law

The Supreme Court has said it will intervene if the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals does not issue a ruling by July 20.

The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments Tuesday on whether Texas’ voter ID law discriminates against low-income, black, and Hispanic voters.

This was the second time the New Orleans-based appeals court reviewed the voter ID law. A three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit voted to overturn the law last year. Texas then asked for a hearing before the full slate of fifteen judges.

Houston Public Media's Coverage of Election 2016

Houston Public Media's Coverage of Election 2016

“The Fifth Circuit’s considered, at this point, to be the most conservative circuit in the country,” says Peter Linzer, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Houston Law Center.

The law remains in effect pending the appeals court’s ruling. Linzer says civil rights groups challenging the law were concerned the court would hold off issuing a decision until it was too close to Election Day. So the petitioners asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case immediately, bypassing the Fifth Circuit.

“The Supreme Court said no, we’re not taking it away from them,” Linzer says. “But they issued an order saying, ‘If the Fifth Circuit doesn’t render a decision by July 20, come back to us, and then we’ll do it,’ and it looks as if they will if the Fifth Circuit sits on the case. So the Fifth Circuit is obviously going to make a decision in the next month.”

Texas’ law requires residents to show one of seven forms of approved photo identification. Supporters of the law say it prevents fraud. Opponents, including the U.S. Justice Department, say it discriminates by requiring forms of ID that are more difficult to obtain for poor and minority voters.

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Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew heads Houston Public Media’s coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments across Greater Houston. Before taking up his current post, Andrew spent five years as Houston Public Media’s business reporter, covering the oil...

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