Contact: Valerie Holford, 301-926-1298
(Washington, D.C.) The U.S. Supreme Court today affirmed the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decision to stay a District Court ruling that found Texas’ photo ID law unconstitutional and intentionally discriminatory. The law will disfranchise more than 600,000 voters, a disproportionate number of whom are Black and Latino, who do not have any of the limited forms of photo ID required by the most restrictive photo ID law in the nation.
“Today’s decision means hundreds of thousands of eligible voters in Texas will be unable to participate in November’s election because Texas has erected an obstacle course designed to discourage voting. A federal court has found that the obstacles erected by Texas were designed to discriminate against Black and Hispanic voters. This is an affront to our democracy,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of NAACP LDF, the nation’s leading civil rights legal organization and a separate organization from the NAACP.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg issued a six-page dissent. “The prospect of enforcing a purposefully discriminatory law, one that likely imposes an unconstitutional poll tax and risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters,” she wrote, undermines “public confidence in elections.” Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Elena Kagan joined the dissent.
“The district court found the Texas ID law was intentionally discriminatory. In the September trial, the court heard from a number of Texas citizens who are unable to secure any of the limited forms of photo ID to satisfy this law. It is both remarkable and troubling that none of those citizens will be able to vote at the polls this November,” said Ryan Haygood, who made closing arguments at the consolidated trial in United States v. Texas and Veasey v. Perry and directs the Political Participation Group at NAACP LDF.
Today’s decision did not reach the merits of the case and the litigation regarding the law’s application in future elections will continue.
“This battle isn’t yet over. Today’s limited decision keeps Texas’s discriminatory ID law in place for this November, but does not change the ultimate ruling that this law is an unconstitutional and racially discriminatory poll tax. The final fate of the Texas ID law beyond this November is yet to be decided. We are committed to ensuring that the upcoming November 2014 elections be the last ones tainted by this discriminatory measure,” said Natasha Korgaonkar, Assistant Counsel in LDF’s Political Participation Group who argued during the trial.
“During the trial we heard from Texas voters who could not satisfy this strict law’s requirements. One voter testified that she would need to choose between paying for a birth certificate so she could vote, or buying groceries for her family. This is not a choice that anyone should ever have to make,” continued Korgaonkar.
The NAACP Legal Defense Fund calls on Congress to pass the Voting Rights Amendment Act to block discriminatory election laws like this before they can take effect.
In United States v. Texas, consolidated with Veasey v. Perry, the NAACP LDF and its co-counsel Wilmer, Cutler, Pickering, Hale and Dorr LLP (WilmerHale) represent the Texas League of Young Voters Education Fund and Imani Clark. Ms. Clark, an undergraduate student at Prairie View A & M University, a historically Black Texas university, previously voted in Texas using her student ID before Texas implemented SB 14. Ms. Clark does not have any of the limited forms of photo ID that Texas required under SB 14, including a concealed handgun license.
On October 9, 2014, after weighing the evidence from a two week trial with nearly 40 witnesses, federal District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos issued a meticulously-written 147-page opinion in which the court found that the Texas legislature enacted the photo ID law with the intent to discriminate against Black and Latino voters, and deemed the law an unconstitutional poll tax.
At trial, the District Court heard that hundreds of thousands of registered voters in Texas do not have the required photo ID. Citizen after citizen testified about the challenges of getting the accepted forms of identification. Texas did not present evidence of a single instance of in-person voter fraud, sparking observers to call the restrictive photo ID law a solution for a problem that does not exist.
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the country’s first and foremost civil rights legal organization. Founded in 1940 under the leadership of Thurgood Marshall, LDF’s mission has always been transformative: to achieve racial justice, equality, and an inclusive society.
LDF has been a separate organization from the NAACP since 1957. If our name needs to be shortened, please refer to us as “NAACP Legal Defense Fund” or “Legal Defense Fund,” not “NAACP.”