By Jeremy Wallace
October 18, 2017
AUSTIN — The fight over the state’s embattled voter ID laws should be over, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton argued in a court document filed on October 17.
Paxton, as expected, filed a brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals calling for the judges to end a challenge to the state’s new voter ID law for good. In his 101-page document, the Republican argued that because the state has already added new exceptions to the law to allow people who have a reasonable-impediment to getting an ID to still vote, the case should be officially concluded.
“This case should be over,” Paxton’s brief states.
In August, Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas issued a permanent injuction against the state’s newest voter ID law, calling it a “poll tax” on minority voters. In September, a federal appeals court blocked that ruling from going into full effect in order to hear the merits for and against the state’s appeal.
The U.S. Appeals Court for the 5th Circuit has scheduled a hearing on the state’s voter ID law for the first week of December in New Orleans.
Since 2011 when the Texas Legislature first passed new laws requiring voter to present an ID to vote, the law has been under challenge from critics who have argued that it hurts people without IDs, particularly minority voters. Supporters of the ID laws say they are needed to help protect against voter fraud.
The Legislature revamped the law to address some of the legal challenges, creating an exception for people to still vote if they sign a document attesting that they had a “reasonable impediment” to obtaining a picture ID in order to vote. To use that exception, people have to sign a sworn statement attesting to having a reasonable impediment to getting an ID.
But Gonzales Ramos ruled that forcing people to sign an affidavit under penalties of perjury could have a chilling effect on a voter. The supposed fix to the voter ID law, she ruled, merely traded one obstacle for another.
While the court battle continues, the courts have already ruled that in November the state’s voter ID requirements can be in effect, but still allow people to vote who can show the reasonable impediment – essentially the same as the revamped voter ID law, which does not go into effect until 2018.