A federal appeals court on Tuesday put on hold a ruling striking down a controversial Texas voter ID law, based “primarily” on the approaching election.
The Texas voter ID law, which requires voters to produce government-issued identification before casting ballots, was struck down last week by U.S. District Judge Nelva Conzales Ramos, who called the measure an “unconstitutional poll tax.”
But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit stayed Ramos' ruling, saying the "value of preserving the status quo" was important so soon before early voting begins in the state. The appeals court said it would be extremely difficult for Texas to train poll workers in time.
The appeals court pointed to the Supreme Court's decision earlier this month that stopped Wisconsin's voter ID law from going into effect, essentially because the change came too close to the election, as well as two other similar stays.
"While the Supreme Court has not explained its reasons for issuing these stays, the common thread is clearly that the decision of the Court of Appeals would change the rules of the election too soon before the election date," the appeals court said. "The stayed decisions have both upheld and struck down state statutes and affirmed and reversed district court decisions, so the timing of the decisions rather than their merits seems to be the key."
U.S. Circuit Judge Gregg Costa said in a statement concurring with the three-judge panel's ruling that the state "should be extremely reluctant to have an election take place under a law that a district court has found, and that our court may find, is discriminatory." But he said the court "must follow the dictates of the Supreme Court" and agreed with the stay, based on the election's timing. Judge Edith Clement wrote the controlling opinion, which was joined by Judge Catharina Haynes.