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Since its creation in 1977, Mountain States Legal Foundation has been a national leader in seeking to ensure the liberties and freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. For example, before the U.S. Supreme Court and in various federal appellate and trial courts throughout the country, MSLF has set valuable legal precedent to achieve the goal of our Founding Fathers--a colorblind Constitution. MSLF victories before the U.S. Supreme Court in Wygant v. Jackson Board of Education, 476 U.S. 267 (1986) and Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Peña, 115 S.Ct. 2097 (1995), have changed race-based decision making by the federal government forever! MSLF continues its fight to ensure that the Constitution is interpreted as intended by its framers.

Veasey v. Abbott

Why We Fight:

Efforts by state officials to protect the sanctity of the ballot box by requiring voter identification is both legal and constitutional; it is not racism.

Summary:

Texas enacted a photo-ID requirement for voter registration, which was challenged as racially discriminatory.

Legal Question:

Whether a State’s attempt to protect the sanctity of the ballot box by requiring the use of voter identification is legal and constitutional?

Plaintiffs:

Marc Veasey; Jane Hamilton; Sergio Deleon; Floyd Carrier; Anna Burns; Michael Montez; Penny Pope; Oscar Ortiz; Koby Ozias; League Of United Latin American Citizens; John Mellor-Crummey, Ken Gandy; Gordon Benjamin, Evelyn Brickner

United States of America, Texas League of Young Voters Education Fund, Imani Clark,

Defendants:

Greg Abbott, in his Official Capacity as Governor of Texas; Carlos Cascos, Texas Secretary of State; State of Texas; Steve McCraw, in his Official Capacity as Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety

Amicus Curiae:

Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF)

Court:

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

 A decision by the Fifth Circuit

In 2011, the Texas Legislature passed SB14, which requires that voters present identification (ID). Prior to SB 14, a Texas voter could vote in person after presenting a registration certificate—a document mailed to him upon registration.  Voters without the certificate could vote after signing an affidavit and presenting:  e.g., a current or expired driver’s license, a photo-identification, or a utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, government document showing the voter’s name and address, or mail sent the voter from a government agency.

SB 14 requires:  (1) a Texas driver’s license or personal ID from the Department of Public Safety (DPS) that has not been expired for over 60 days; (2) a U.S. military ID with a photo that has not been expired for over 60 days; (3) a U.S. citizenship certificate with a photo; (4) a U.S. passport that has not been expired for over 60 days; (5) a DPS license to carry a concealed handgun that has not been expired for over 60 days; or (6) a DPS Election Identification Certificate (EIC) that has not been expired for over 60 days.  An EIS requires:  (A) one form of primary ID, or (B) two forms of secondary ID, or (C) one form of secondary ID and two pieces of supporting information.  Thus, an EIC requires either a Texas driver’s license or personal identification card that has been expired for less than two years, or one of the following with two supporting documents:  (1) birth certificate; (2) State Department document; (3) U.S. citizenship or naturalization papers without a photo; or (4) a court order indicating a change of name and/or gender.


Texas residents sued alleging SB14 violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments and Section 2 of the VRA, a suit that was consolidated with one filed by the United States, which alleged that SB14 had a discriminatory purpose.  In 2014, a federal district court ruled for the plaintiffs on all claims.  Later, a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit held that SB14 violates only Section 2 because of its discriminatory effect.  The Fifth Circuit granted en banc review.

On April 22, 2016, MSLF filed a friend of the court brief in support of Texas urging the appeals court to rule that Texas legislation requiring the use of voter identification violated neither the Constitution nor the VRA. On May 9, 2016, the United States and the other plaintiffs filed their supplemental en banc briefs.  Oral argument took place on May 23, 2016.

On July 20, 2016, the en banc Fifth Circuit held that Senate Bill 14 was not passed for a discriminatory purpose but did have a discriminatory effect and, thus, violated Section 2 of the VRA.  The Fifth Circuit remanded the case to the district court to ensure that any remedy enacted ameliorates SB 14’s discriminatory effect, while respecting the Legislature’s stated objective of safeguarding the integrity of elections by requiring more secure forms of voter identification.  On September 23, 2016, Governor Abbot filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court of the United States.  On January 23, 2017, the Supreme Court of the United States denied the petition.

On April 3, 2017, the Texas federal district court issued an order expressing its intent to “await the end of the current Texas legislative session to address remedies” regarding the discriminatory effect of SB 14.  On April 10, 2017, the Texas federal district court issued an order again finding that, even absent the evidence considered “infirm” by the Fifth Circuit, SB 14 was passed with a discriminatory purpose.

On June 1, 2017, the Texas legislature passed SB 5, attempting to negate SB 14’s discriminatory purpose by expanding the types of photo IDs to include passport cards and extending the amount of time a qualifying ID may be expired.  The state officials subsequently filed a motion for reconsideration of the federal district court’s April 10 order.  On August 23, 2017, the federal district court denied the motion for reconsideration and awarded plaintiffs declaratory and injunctive relief for Section 2 violations, finding that SB 5 does not remedy SB 14’s Section 2 violations because SB 5 itself does not conform with Section 2.  On August 23, 2017, the state officials filed a notice of appeal.  Between September and December, the parties briefed the appeal on an expedited basis.  On December 5, 2017, the Fifth Circuit heard oral argument. 

 

No Status Updates
  • Western Legal Foundation Laments Texas Voter Identification Ruling

    Jul 20, 2016
    A nonprofit, public-interest legal foundation with decades of experience challenging unconstitutional aspects of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) today expressed its regret and dismay with the 8-5 ruling against the State of Texas by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit sitting en banc in reviewing the rulings of a federal district court and a three-judge panel.
  • Western Legal Foundation Supports Texas on Voter Identification

    Apr 29, 2016
    A nonprofit, public-interest legal foundation with decades of experience challenging unconstitutional aspects of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) today filed a friend of the court brief in support of the State of Texas urging the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit sitting en banc to reverse the rulings of a federal district court and a three-judge panel.


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