AUSTIN — The Obama administration and several civil rights groups are urging a federal appeals court to fast track the process of temporarily fixing Texas’ voter ID law in time for the upcoming Nov. 3 elections.
In court filings Thursday, the Justice Department and civil rights groups asked the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to allow a lower court to start getting to work immediately on an interim remedy to the law passed in 2011 by the state’s Republican-led Legislature.
A three-judge panel at the 5th Circuit ruled in part earlier this month that Texas’ strict voter ID measure violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
The 5th Circuit bounced a portion of the case back to a federal court in Corpus Christi and instructed it to correct the law ahead of the upcoming election while the rest of the case works through the courts. The 5th Circuit noted the lower court should craft a remedy that would “avoid election eve uncertainties and emergencies.”
However, the 5th Circuit is set to retain jurisdiction of the case until Sept. 28.
DOJ and the civil rights groups argue that timeline might not allow for an interim solution to be put in place across the state for early voting, which starts on Oct. 19. They’ve asked the 5th Circuit to allow the federal court in Corpus Christi to come up with a fix earlier.
“The timely entry of interim relief mitigates SB14’s discriminatory result while also minimizing any voter confusion or disruption to upcoming election-day preparations, including poll-worker training and the issuance of election-related information, materials, and notices,” DOJ wrote, referring to the voter ID law by the bill number it was assigned in the 2011 Legislature, Senate Bill 14.
The Attorney General’s office did not return a request for comment Friday, but the state is set to respond with its own brief by Aug. 28, according to court filings.
Lawyers for the civil rights groups said in their brief that they spoke with the attorney general’s office earlier this week, noting the state is opposed to its request that the process be sped up in anticipation of the November elections.
One temporary remedy for the voter ID law has already been suggested by the 5th Circuit — reinstating a previous protocol that allowed for voter registration cards to qualify as acceptable identification.
In its court brief, DOJ also cited as a potential fix the idea that voter registration cards could serve as the equivalent of an ID at the ballot box, but a lawyer involved in the case said that’s just one possible remedy that will be considered.
“We’re in favor of a lot of solutions,” said Chad Dunn, one of the lawyers representing the lead plaintiffs in the case, which include U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth. “There’s a buffet of solutions and many of which we’d be happy to put on our plate.”
Dunn Added: “At the end of the day, SB 14 is not going to operate the same as when it was passed. It’s now going to provide an opportunity for people to vote who don’t have an ID and who have an extreme burden.”