Texas Voter ID Trial May Be Delayed Until 2015

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[Image courtesy of texastribune]

In the middle of all the other news yesterday, reports from Texas suggest that the Voting Rights Act lawsuit against the state’s new voter ID law may not happen until after the 2014 election. Michael Li of Texas Redistricting has the story:

Late [Tuesday], the parties filed their proposals for handling discovery in the Texas voter ID case.

While the parties were able to agree on a number of issues, they were not able to agree on a single discovery schedule. Instead, the Justice Department – joined by MALC, the NAACP, and Texas League of Young Voters – submitted one proposal, the State of Texas another, and the Veasey plaintiffs a third.

The major division centered around how long it would take to get the case ready for trial – with DOJ and the State of Texas each proposing schedules that would set trial in the case for March 2015.

However, the Veasey plaintiffs told the court that a 2015 was too late because it would come after the November 2014 elections:

The Veasey plaintiffs propose a schedule that – unlike the other parties’ schedule – would provide an opportunity for plaintiffs to obtain relief on behalf of Texas voters in time for the November 2014 elections, the first major turnout elections in which Texas seeks to enforce the Voter ID law. The Veasey plaintiffs believe it is critically important to obtain a decision on SB 14’s validity before, not after, the first major elections, and they further believe it is feasible for the parties and the Court to have a trial on such a schedule.

Instead, under the Veasey plaintiffs schedule, the court would hold trial in September 2014.

DOJ told the court, however, that a limited period of discovery after the 2014 election would let evidence from that election be considered at trial. DOJ also argued that the need for extensive database discovery and other discovery issues would make it hard to try the case before the 2014 election.

If nothing else, this news suggests that DOJ is less worried about the short-term effect of the voter ID law (i.e., on the 2014 Governor’s race) and more interested in the long-term ability to stop laws like this using the Voting Rights Act – and, presumably, re-subjecting Texas to pre-clearance under the “bail-in” provisions of the Act. It will be interesting to see if the decision to wait – during which campaigns will likely be racing to get voters ID before the 2014 vote – yields the kind of evidence that DOJ is hoping to get.

This is a big development – stay tuned (and many many thanks to Michael for sharing the proposed order!)

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