The Lawyers’ Committee along with the law firm of Dechert LLP, the Brennan Center for Justice, attorneys from the NAACP, and civil rights attorney Jose Garza represented the Texas State Conference of NAACP Branches and the Mexican American Legislative Caucus of the Texas House of Representatives (“MALC”) as intervenors in this litigation to oppose preclearance, under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, of the photo ID requirement for in-person voting enacted by the State of Texas in 2011. Four other intervenor groups also joined this litigation.
At the time of this litigation, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act required covered jurisdictions, including the State of Texas, to obtain federal preclearance for all new voting practices and procedures. Preclearance could be obtained by Texas demonstrating, either to the federal district court in Washington, DC or the Justice Department, that its new voting provisions neither would have the purpose nor would have the effect of discriminating on the basis of race, color, or membership in a language minority group.
Following a four-day trial in July 2012, the three-judge district court issued a unanimous opinion on August 30, 2012 denying Section 5 preclearance. 888 F. Supp. 2d 113 (D.D.C.). The court found that Texas’ photo ID requirement would have a prohibited retrogressive effect on the opportunity of minority citizens to participate in the political process. The court summarized its opinion as follows:
The State of Texas enacted a voter ID law that – at least to our knowledge – is the most stringent in the country. That law will almost certainly have a retrogressive effect: it imposes strict unforgiving burdens on the poor, and racial minorities in Texas are disproportionately likely to live in poverty.
Id. at 144. Although the court did not reach the issue of discriminatory purpose, the court emphasized that, during consideration of the photo ID legislation, the Texas legislature defeated several proposed amendments that were aimed at minimizing the impact of the new requirement on poor and minority citizens.
Texas filed a notice of appeal to the Supreme Court regarding the district court’s preclearance denial. In response, four intervenor groups filed a joint Motion to Affirm (including the Texas State Conference of NAACP Branches, MALC, Texas League of Young Voters Education Fund, Justice Seekers, League of Women Voters of Texas, the Texas Legislative Black Caucus, the Southwest Workers Union, La Union Del Pueblo Entero, and several individuals). Separate Motions to Affirm were filed by the Justice Department and by a fifth intervenor group (Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, and two individual voters). Following the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder, the Court vacated the district court’s ruling and remanded to the district court, and the district court then dismissed the lawsuit.
Texas also has asserted in this lawsuit that Section 5 is unconstitutional. The district court, however, has postponed any ruling on that question pending the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder later this year regarding the constitutionality of Congress’ reauthorization of Section 5 in 2006.
Supreme Court Documents:
Click here for Texas’ Jurisdictional Statement.
Click here for the intervenors’ joint Motion to Affirm.
Click here for the Justice Department’s Motion to Affirm.
Click here for the Rodriguez intervenors’ Motion to Affirm.
Other District Court Documents:
Click here for the Lawyers’ Committee’s Memorandum in Support of its Motion to Intervene.
Click here for the Lawyers’ Committee’s proposed supplemental findings of fact and conclusions of law.
Click here for the Justice Department’s findings of fact and conclusions of law.