HOUSTON, Texas–The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has acted quickly to unanimously rule in favor of Texas, and the voter ID law will remain in effect for the November 2014 election. The decision stays the decision of Judge Nelva Gonzalez Ramos, an Obama appointee sitting in the Corpus Christi Division of the U.S. District Courts for the Southern District of Texas. Ramos issued a permanent injunction on October 11th requiring Texas to enforce the in-person voter identification requirements that existed before Senate Bill 14 became the law.
Judge Ramos issued an opinion late last week holding that the Texas voter ID law “constituted an unconstitutional poll tax” and “create[d] an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote, ha[d] an impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans, and was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose.”
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott filed an Emergency Motion to Stay Final Judgment Pending Appeal in response and asked for expedited consideration. The Office of the Attorney General is appealing the case on the merits but had asked for an emergency stay of Judge Ramos’ ruling to keep it from being enforced during the November election.
The Texas Attorney General’s Office released the following statement from Lauren Bean, Deputy Communications Director saying “We are pleased that the appeals court has unanimously agreed that Texas’ voter ID law should remain in effect for the upcoming election, which is the right choice in order to avoid voter confusion. The State will continue to defend the voter ID law and remains confident that the district court’s misguided ruling will be overturned on the merits. The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that voter ID laws are a legal and sensible way to protect the integrity of elections.”
Leif Olson, a board-certified appellate lawyer who regularly assists the Harris County Republican Party with election matters told Breitbart Texas “This ruling isn’t a surprise. One, the Supreme Court has already approved a voter ID law almost identical to the one in Texas. Two, county clerks all over Texas have been preparing themselves and training election judges and clerks how to operate under the current Election Code. Forcing them to change those procedures and re-train all of those volunteers in the seven days before early voting starts would create chaos.”
The fight over whether the voter ID law would be enforced in November had created uncertainty for election officials in Texas.
Stan Stanart, the County Clerk for the largest county in Texas, Harris County, told Breitbart Texas, “I appreciate the Fifth Circuit understanding the complexity of running elections and ruling expeditiously. With 41 early voting locations, the delivery of equipment and supplies for early voting is underway this week. Swapping out forms, providing additional training materials, and properly communicating changes this late before voting is a big job. On Election Day, with 769 polling locations, it takes approximately 6,000 workers to run elections in Harris County. The Fifth Circuit Court did the right thing in preventing disruptive changes to the election process this close to voters showing up at the polls. Now we can go back to running elections instead of confusing the voters. The district court had no business causing chaos this close to an election. The Fifth Circuit came to the rescue of Texas voters.”
Jim Oldham, Fort Bend County’s Elections Administrator, told Breitbart Texas “The ruling ensures consistent application of the ID laws. Some of the counties might have asked for different forms of identification. This provides for equal protection for voters throughout the state of Texas. I do not think that all of the counties were on the same page. The action by the Fifth Circuit brings needed clarity, and an understanding that voter ID is not dead. There have been six elections since this law came into effect and our office has issued only 8 provisional ballots during this time. The lower court’s ruling created confusion. It is now incumbent on all of us to spread the word.”
The integrity of the election process has also been an issue during the voter ID battle.
Michael Gibson, Chairman of the Fort Bend Republican Party, the most ethnically diverse county in the state, told Breitbart Texas that “The Fifth Circuit has upheld the founding philosophy of one man, one vote! The will of Texas voters has been upheld despite the attempt by this activist Obama appointee to subvert our laws. I applaud the quick actions of the Attorney General and the Fifth Circuit Court!”
Wade Emmert, Chairman of the Dallas County Republican Party responded that “I’m glad the Fifth Circuit has decided to support the will of the majority of Texas in supporting voter ID over the liberal, Obama-court. This is a victory for all Texans who support the integrity of the ballot box.”
Paul Simpson, Chairman of the Harris County Republican Party reacted by telling Breitbart Texas “Kudos to the Fifth Circuit for letting common-sense laws stay in place so we can have fair and honest elections. The Obama Justice Department should stop trying to sow chaos and confusion. Elections have consequences: Harris County works but Democrats would wreck it. Every Republican needs to vote so no one steals this election.”
An appeal on the merits will be decided later, but for now, Texas’ voter ID law is the law of the land on Election Day.
Lana Shadwick is a contributing writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. Follow her on Twitter @LanaShadwick2.