Court Scolds Texas For Delaying Voter ID Lawsuit

A panel of three federal judges deciding whether a voter ID law passed in Texas can go into effect over the objections of the Justice Department is criticizing the Lone Star state for delaying the review process. The delays, the court said, will mean the state wouldn’t be able to implement its law for the 2012 election unless it meets very specific deadlines.

“Texas has repeatedly ignored or violated directives and orders of this Court that were designed to expedite discovery, and Texas has failed to produce in a timely manner key documents that Defendants need to prepare their defense,” the three judge panel wrote in an order yesterday.“Most troubling is Texas’ conduct with respect to producing its key state databases, which are central to Defendants’ claim that S.B. 14 has a disparate and retrogressive impact on racial and/or language minority groups,” the panel wrote.

The court found that given the previous delays, the only way the trial could go forward is if Texas meets “every single future deadline,” so the trial can begin on July 9. So the court ordered that Texas turn over all relevant databases to the U.S. by Wednesday.

Texas, for its part, is framing DOJ’s discovery request as a “fishing expedition” put on by “DOJ and partisans who oppose the Voter ID law.” Texas alleges that DOJ is “simply using massive information requests in a thinly veiled effort to delay the trial.”

The state had argued that discussions that Republican legislators had about passing the voter ID bill should be secret. The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division objected to Texas’ voter ID law under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. An analysis of the state’s data found that Hispanic registered voters were either 46.5 percent or 120 percent more likely than average voter to lack a form of photo ID.