A group of Texas advocates and elected officials challenging the state’s voter identification law filed a motion on Wednesday urging the Supreme Court to swiftly block the measure.
The emergency application came within one day of a decision by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to provisionally unblock the photo ID law after a federal district court judge ruled it unconstitutional last week.
“It is deeply troubling that the court of appeals would allow an unconstitutionally discriminatory voter ID law to deny the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of African-American and Hispanic voters,” J. Gerald Hebert, a lawyer for the challengers, said in a statement, “so as not to inconvenience Texas election officials by informing them they could no longer demand photo ID which the lower court condemned as a ‘poll tax.'”
The immediate question is whether the voter ID law will be in effect during the 2014 midterm elections. Only the Supreme Court can prevent that from happening now.
The larger question of whether the law runs afoul of the Constitution or Voting Rights Act will take time to proceed. It will next be heard on the merits at the 5th Circuit, a conservative-leaning court. After that it could land up in the Supreme Court if the losing side appeals.
In a brief interview with TPM, Heberg declined to speculate on whether his clients would appeal to the Supreme Court if the 5th Circuit ruled against them on the merits.
“I’m optimistic that the district court judge’s decision, which is thorough and accurate, will ultimately be upheld,” he said.
The lawsuit is being led by Rep. Marc Veasey, a Democrat who represents the Fort Worth area. The case was paired with a similar lawsuit by the U.S. Justice Department, which hadn’t said as of Wednesday morning if it will join the appeal.
Experts estimated that 600,000 Texans lack the photo ID required, a disproportionate number of whom are black and Hispanic.
Read the Texans’ filing with the Supreme Court below.