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Fifth Circuit to Hear TX Voter ID Case En Banc

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By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on March 18, 2016 6:59 AM

The Fifth Circuit en banc is hearing the Texas Voter ID case, making the procedural history of the case of Veasey v Abbott even more confusing.

The case revolves around the legal implications that arise if the Texas Legislature should be allowed to implement voter ID laws which may be shown to be intentionally discriminatory, though not facially so. And in a state with consistently low turnout rate, the fate of Veasey could have a palpable effect on the minority voters who appear to be disproportionately affected by the law's strict requirements.

A Few Months Down the Line

The full panel of the Fifth Circuit will hear the case several months after Texas' Attorney General Ken Paxton asked that the full panel review the circuit's earlier ruling that Texas law had a discriminatory effect that violated the Voting Rights Act, but was not barred under the U.S. Constitution under a theory of "poll tax."

Paxton seems to be pleased that the Fifth Circuit will be hearing the case en banc. "Safeguarding the integrity of our elections is a primary function of state government and is essential to preserving our democratic process," he said. Talk of integrity is taken somewhat with a grain of salt given Paxton's legal conundrums.

Resistance

Civil Rights Groups and even the Justice Department had urged the Circuit not to rehear the case, Paxton maintained that the plaintiffs failed to prove substantial injury to their voting rights by keeping things the way they were.

The lead plaintiff in the case, U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, expressed disappointment but seemed upbeat that the circuit would find that Texas' voter ID law would violate the Voting Rights Act.

A 4-4 Supreme Court

Conflict over the law has been very confusing. Texas was able to finally place the rules of the law into effect for the 2014 primaries because SCOTUS struck down a part of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, allowing states with histories of "racial discrimination" to bypass a federal green light before implementing new voting restrictions.

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