The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled against Texas voter ID law SB 14 on the bases of disparate impact to minority groups. The ruling affirms “the district court’s holding that SB 14 was passed with a discriminatory purpose in violation of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.”
The Texas law requires voters to present a state driver’s license, personal identification card or concealed handgun license, a military identification card, or a U.S. passport or citizenship certificate. In the ruling, the state defended the law as “as a constitutional requirement imposed to prevent in-person voter fraud and increase voter confidence and turnout.”
Of which, there is absolutely a compelling state interest. That was what the Supreme in 2008 through Crawford v. Marion County Election Board which ruled that “The application of the statute to the vast majority of Indiana voters is amply justified by the valid interest in protecting the integrity and reliability of the electoral process.”
Previously, when Texas allowed student IDs, government worker IDs, and utility bills to be used as a form of ID during voting, the state ran the substantial risk of non-citizens entering the electoral process. In fact as Daniel Horowitz of the Conservative Review writes “Texas has about 4.5 million immigrants, including over 1.7 million illegal aliens,” citing a 2016 Pew Research analysis and a 2014 analysis by the Washington Post explaining more than 14 percent of all non-citizens are illegally registered to vote.
Indiana successfully represented its need based on several thousands of “voters” who had moved, died or were otherwise not eligible. Texas has the potential for millions of illegal immigrants voting in their state.
But Judge Catharina Haynes, of the 5th Circuit disagreed with the Supreme Court. Claiming “Ballot integrity is undoubtedly a worthy goal…The record shows that drafters and proponents of SB 14 were aware of the likely disproportionate effect of the law on minorities, and that they nonetheless passed the bill without adopting a number of proposed ameliorative measures that might have lessened this impact.”
The 5th Circuit thus directly contradicts the states’ duty to maintain the fair election process based on a fear of a law being seen as racist.
However, the consistent dilemma with disparate impact theory is the assumption that if a law affects a single race more significantly, the law must be racist.
The justice system is built on a color-blind burden of proof, but by disallowing a law simply because it affects one group ignores all other contributing factors. For example, it is impossible to separate the illegal immigrant population from being prominently Hispanic — that is primarily due to the geographic proximity of Hispanic populations to Texas and the U.S. generally speaking.
The purpose is to prevent non-citizens from voting, but at least 74 percent of non-citizens happen to be from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Ecuador alone,according to data compiled by the Department of Homeland Security. However, the law also aims at preventing Asian, European, and other international non-citizens from voting as well, it works to prevent all non-citizens, not a single group.
By contradicting the Supreme Courts precedent, the Firth Circuit weakens the ability of the state of Texas to combat an extreme problem growing within their borders, a problem which the state is meant to solve. Once again, disparate impact works against the ability for justice to be delivered in a color blind fashion rather than promoting equality.
But perhaps the most fearful reality is that the decision will likely not be appealed again in time for the November election, as predicted by the Wall Street Journal of July, 20. The appellate court has thus urged for the District Court to assist in providing an interim remedy to for the state of Texas, absolving the state of all control of their electoral process.
If Hillary Clinton wins the presidential election and appoints a new Supreme Court Justice, the precedent of Crawford v. Marion County Election Board which upholds states’ rights could be erased completely. The constitution allows states to control their electoral process, the Supreme Court should ensure the state is doing their job, not prevent it.