20 September 2016

The Bull Durham Rule of Constitutional Law

Do not call the judge a C%$# Sucker.

On the issue of voting rights, the state of Texas has left a Federal Court Judge profoundly unamused:
Texas violated a court order intended to preserve voting rights. And it got caught.

Earlier this month, the Justice Department informed a federal court that Texas is violating a recent court order that sought to keep the state from disenfranchising voters. After an appeals court struck down the state’s voter ID law, a common form of voter suppression favored by conservative lawmakers, the state agreed to be bound by an order that would permit voters to cast a ballot in the 2016 election if they “cannot reasonably obtain” photo ID.

Despite this order, Texas published press releases, voter education materials, and training manuals for poll workers that effectively stated that a voter without ID cannot vote unless it is literally impossible for that voter to obtain a photo ID. Thus, for example, a voter who had to make multiple day long trips to a government office and make burdensome document requests to obtain an ID would not be able to vote, under Texas’ standard, unless that voter was willing to jump through all of these considerable hoops.

On Tuesday, Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos, the judge overseeing this case, weighed in on Texas’ defiance of the court order. And, if the order she issued on Tuesday is any indication, she’s pissed.

………

Among other things, the Tuesday order requires Texas to “re-issue its press releases concerning voting to properly reflect the language in the Court’s Order,” to “edit the poster to be printed and placed at polling locations to accurately reflect the language in the Court’s Order,” and to “edit digital materials on its website page(s) that address voting rights and procedures, including titles or headlines and FAQs” to bring them into compliance with the original court order.

Significantly, the Tuesday order also provides that “the State of Texas shall provide to counsel for all Plaintiffs scripts and copy for documents and advertisements that have not yet been published for review and objection prior to publication.” As a practical matter, this gives the Justice Department (as well as the private plaintiffs in this case) the power to read over and object to new elections related materials before those materials are published.
You read that right:  The judge put the state of Texas back under a pre-clearance regime, at least this year.

Oh snap.

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