Unless the Supreme Court intervenes, Texas will be allowed to implement its controversial voter identification law that was halted by a lower court. A federal appeals court has ruled in favor of the law, Senate Bill 5, which was introduced after the Supreme Court struck down the state’s last attempt at a voter ID law.
At the end of August, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos ruled that SB 5 was discriminatory since it failed to expand the list of acceptable IDs. On Tuesday, three judges from the New Orleans-based Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals stayed Ramos decision and voted to allow SB 5’s implementation to proceed. With their decision, SB 5 will go into effect before November’s election.
Judges Jerry Smith and Jennifer Elrod voted in favor of Texas, while Judge James Graves Jr. dissented, according to Politico. Smith and Elrod’s dismissed Ramos’ injunction, arguing that the law doesn’t prevent people without IDs from voting.
From the Smith and Elrod’s decision:
SB 5 allows voters without qualifying photo ID to cast regular ballots by executing a declaration that they face a reasonable impediment to obtaining qualifying photo ID. This declaration is made under the penalty of perjury. As the State explains, each of the 27 voters identified — whose testimony the plaintiffs used to support their discriminatory-effect claim — can vote without impediment under SB 5.
Ramos’ ruling was particularly critical of the bill’s “declaration of reasonable impediment” which Smith and Elrod said “remedies plaintiffs’ alleged harm.” While the signed stipulation does give people without photo IDs the ability to vote, it also threatens a felony, which is punishable by two years in prison, if voters who sign the declaration are found to be lying about why they couldn’t obtain an ID. Ramos described the provision as a form of voter intimidation.
In his dissent, Graves wrote that the future of SB 5 was uncertain and by no means assured. Comparing it to North Carolina’s rejected discriminatory voter ID law, Graves indicated that the case for SB 5 is unlikely to succeed given legal precedent.
Activists and plaintiffs suing Texas over SB 5 could take their case to the Supreme Court and request another injunction before fall elections.