Lost in all the hoopla and angst over the Republican convention was the news that the very conservative 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has struck down some major portions of Texas’s voter I.D. law that was whooped through by the legislature about ten seconds after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, found that the law had a discriminatory effect on blacks and Latinos, who often lack the forms of identification required under the Texas law. But the ruling did not strike down the law entirely, ruling instead that new procedures must be found to assist potential voters lacking the required identification.
The ruling also sent back for reconsideration the question of whether Texas legislators had acted with a discriminatory purpose in passing the law in 2011, a finding that would have forced new judicial oversight of any changes in Texas election rules.
The big deal is that this ruling will effect the voting in Texas in November, which means that a lot of people that the Republicans were trying to keep out of the voting booth — mainly blacks and Latinos — will be able to vote. It’s unlikely that it will make a big enough change to turn the state blue, but it could have a ripple effect on the other states where their voting laws have been manipulated to suppress the minority vote.
It should also be noted that the 5th Circuit is one of the most conservative courts in the country. They are the go-to court if you want to uphold restrictions on abortion clinics or same-sex marriage or almost any other right wing peccadillo written into the law. But in this case, the Court ruled en banc, which means the whole court returned the opinion, and the only recourse now is the U.S. Supreme Court.
So unless SCOTUS issues an emergency stay between now and November, the elections in Texas just got a lot more interesting.