Texas’ le­gal chal­lenge goes be­yond voter-id law

State looks to over­turn pro­vi­sion of 1965 act

The Washington Times Daily - - Nation - BY WILL WEIS­SERT

AUSTIN, TEXAS | Texas on Wed­nes­day asked a fed­eral panel weigh­ing its photo-id re­quire­ment for vot­ers to let the state chal­lenge di­rectly the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of a part of the Vot­ing Rights Act that has re­quired mostly South­ern ju­ris­dic­tions to get Washington to sign off on elec­tion changes.

In a fil­ing to a three-judge panel in Washington, Texas asked to sub­mit a pe­ti­tion charg­ing that Sec­tion 5 of the Vot­ing Rights Act “ex­ceeds the enu­mer­ated pow­ers of Congress and con­flicts with Ar­ti­cle IV of the Con­sti­tu­tion and the Tenth Amend­ment.”

As a state that had a his­tory of voter dis­crim­i­na­tion when the Vot­ing Rights Act passed in 1965, since reau­tho­rized in 2006, Texas is re­quired un­der that sec­tion of the law to get ad­vance ap­proval of vot­ing changes from ei­ther the Jus­tice Depart­ment or the U.S. Dis­trict Court in Washington.

On Mon­day, the Jus­tice Depart­ment de­clared that Texas’ photo ID rule could dis­en­fran­chise hun­dreds of thou­sands of His­pan­ics — its lat­est move against Re­pub­li­can-led vot­ing changes that Democrats say would dis­cour­age vot­ing by groups that sup­port them.

The Jus­tice Depart­ment’s ob­jec­tion sent the case to the fed­eral panel that is now de­cid­ing whether Texas, as well as South Carolina, can en­force new voter photo-id re­quire­ments. It also has re­sulted in the Texas law be­ing blocked un­til the court rules.

Un­der Sec­tion 5 of the Vot­ing Rights Act, Texas also had to win pre-clear­ance for the new con­gres­sional and state leg­isla­tive dis­tricts drawn by its state Leg­is­la­ture. Those pro­posed maps, which as usual ben­e­fit the party in power (in Texas, the Repub­li­cans), have them­selves touched off a le­gal bat­tle now in the hands of the same three-judge fed­eral panel in Washington that is mulling the voter-id law.

Mean­while, the Texas pri­mary has been de­layed and now likely won’t take place un­til May 29.

With its fil­ing, Texas is seek­ing per­mis­sion to make a larger ar­gu­ment on the mer­its of Sec­tion 5 of the Vot­ing Rights Act it­self. If the pro­vi­sion were over­turned, Texas could make changes to its vot­ing rules with­out fed­eral ap­proval.

Such an ar­gu­ment is im­por­tant be­cause the fed­eral panel’s decision can be ap­pealed di­rectly to the U.S. Supreme Court, which could po­ten­tially rule to over­turn the pro­vi­sion en­tirely.

Alabama’s Shelby County is al­ready chal­leng­ing Sec­tion 5 of the Vot­ing Rights Act, but that case was ar­gued in Jan­uary in the fed­eral ap­peals court sys­tem and a decision has yet to be reached in the mat­ter.

Texas could po­ten­tially avoid the ap­peals courts by mak­ing its ar­gu­ment as part of its voter-id case, then hav­ing any ap­peals con­tinue to the Supreme Court.

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