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'Loss for Democracy': Supreme Court Allows Texas's Voter ID Law

Court refuses to block law critics and lower court say is discriminatory

Voting rights advocates say the decision is a "loss for democracy." (Photo: Mark Fischer/flickr/cc)

Voting rights advocates say the decision is a "loss for democracy." (Photo: Mark Fischer/flickr/cc)

The U.S. Supreme Court on Saturday said that Texas's controversial voter ID law can remain in place for this year's election, potentially threatening voting rights of hundreds of thousands of Texans.

U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos had struck down the law on Oct. 9, finding that it "has an impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans, [...] was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose," and "constitutes an unconstitutional poll tax." Days later, a federal appeals court blocked that decision, keeping the voter ID restrictions in place.

The Supreme Court's early morning decision rejects an emergency appeal brought forth by voting rights advocates to reinstate the district court's injunction.

Justice Ginsburg, who was joined by Justices Sotomayor and Kagan in dissenting, wrote: "The greatest threat to public confidence in elections in this case is the prospect of enforcing a purposefully discriminatory law, one that likely imposes an unconstitutional poll tax and risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters."

Lyle Denniston writes at Scotusblog that the decision is "a stinging defeat for the Obama administration and a number of civil rights groups." He adds: "This apparently was the first time since 1982 that the Court has allowed a law restricting voters’ rights to be enforced after a federal court had ruled it to be unconstitutional."

"The right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy, and it must be protected," Representative Trey Martinez Fischer, Chairman of Mexican American Legislative Caucus of the Texas House of Representatives (MALC), said in a press statement following the decision.

"The courts are supposed to protect voters against discrimination and disenfranchisement, but the Supreme Court got this one wrong. This ruling is a loss for democracy, as it will make it harder for hundreds of thousands of minorities to vote this November," he stated.

The Brennan Center for Justice criticized the Court's decision as well, stating that it "demonstrates the inadequacy of existing protections against discrimination at the voting booth."

"A court of law found that Texas' photo ID was enacted with intentional discrimination against minority voters, and yet that discrimination is being allowed to infect the November elections," stated Myrna Pérez, deputy director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. "That cannot stand. We clearly need new laws and protections to ensure our elections are free, fair, and accessible."

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