United States v. Texas / Veasey v. Perry is LDF’s more than six-year fight against SB 14, Texas’s restrictive photo ID law, and any legislation that bears the discriminatory taint of that law. SB 14 was previously blocked through the Voting Rights Act Section 5 litigation in 2012. Following the Shelby County decision in 2013, Texas immediately (and successfully) petitioned to vacate the Section 5 decision. Consequently, DOJ and LDF, in addition to other private plaintiffs, challenged SB 14 again under Section 2 of the VRA and the Constitution.
SB 14 imposes significant burdens on young African-American student voters in Texas, many of whom have previously relied on student IDs to vote in past elections. Texas’s restrictive voter ID law would have a disproportionate effect on voters of color throughout the state. Nationally, only 8% of white voting age citizens, while 25% of African-American voting age citizens, lack a government-issued photo ID. Under the proposed law, concealed handgun licenses would be acceptable forms of photo ID, but student IDs would not.
On April 10, 2017, a federal district court found in Veasey v. Abbott that Texas bill SB 14 – the strictest photo ID law in the country – was enacted to purposefully discriminate against Black and Latino voters. The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) first challenged and defeated the bill in 2012 under the then-preclearance provision of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which was struck down by the Supreme Court in Shelby v. Holder in 2013.
No longer subject to preclearance requirements, Texas immediately moved to implement the law. LDF has since fought vigorously to eliminate it. This is the fourth successive win in this case by Black and Latino voters who have challenged voter suppression efforts in the state. Specifically, the trial court found that “at least one of the substantial or motivating factors behind the passage of Texas’ voter ID law was to discriminate against African American and Latino voters.”
On November 7, 2017, LDF and its co-counsel filed an appellate brief before a three-judge court of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, urging that court to affirm the federal trial court’s finding of intentional racial discrimination in Veasey v. Abbott – a challenge to Texas’ voter ID law. On December 5, 2017, LDF and co-counsel appeared in a federal appeals court to protect successful challenges to Texas’ voter ID law (SB 14), the strictest voter ID law in the country, and its descendant, SB 5.
On April 27, 2018, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals determined that Texas’ current photo voter ID law, S.B. 5, sufficiently remedies discrimination against Black and Latino voters. The decision reverses a lower court order that blocked Texas from enforcing that law and an earlier iteration of it.
On May 27, 2020, the district court entered its order, finding that Private-Plaintiffs are prevailing parties in this lawsuit, though discounting the fees and costs they sought for a variety of reasons. The court ordered that LDF and Wilmer Hale recover $814,904 in fees and costs. Texas has appealed Private-Plaintiffs’ award to the Fifth Circuit, and briefing was completed in January 2021. Oral argument is scheduled for July 2021.