Jim Vertuno, ABC News, October 14, 2014
A federal appeals court on Tuesday temporarily reinstated Texas’ tough voter ID law, which the U.S. Justice Department had condemned as the state’s latest means of suppressing minority voter turnout.
The ruling by a three-judge panel of the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit Court of Appeals allows the law to be used in the November election, despite a lower judge’s ruling that the law is unconstitutional. The 5th Circuit did not rule on the law’s merits; instead, it determined it’s too late to change the rules for the election.
The judge said the Supreme Court has repeatedly told courts to be cautious about late-hour interruptions of elections. Early voting starts Oct. 20.
“It will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the state to adequately train its 25,000 polling workers at 8,000 polling places” in time for the start of early voting, the appeals court wrote.
While some voters may be harmed, the greater harm would come in potentially disrupting an election statewide, the court said.
The NAACP Legal Defense Fund promised a quick appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The ruling represents a temporary but key victory for Republican-backed photo ID measures that have swept across the U.S. in recent years. Last week’s ruling from U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos–an appointee of President Barack Obama who likened the law to a poll tax designed to dissuade minorities from voting–remains under appeal.
The Texas law, considered the toughest of its kind in the nation, requires that an estimated 13.6 million registered voters show one of seven kinds of photo identification to cast a ballot. The Justice Department says more than 600,000 of those voters, mostly blacks and Hispanics, lack eligible ID.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who had sought an emergency ruling from the conservative-leaning appeals court, is on the ballot as the Republican nominee for governor.