(Redistricting expert and elections lawyer Michael Li has an update on the law requiring a Photo ID to vote as it works its way through the courts. - promoted by Katherine Haenschen)
A showdown on Texas' photo voter ID law (S.B. 14) is coming this summer.
Monday morning, the D.C. district court set a one-week trial in Texas' voter ID suit for July 9-13.
That's nearly three weeks earlier than requested by the Justice Department and minority groups. The earlier date appears to be in response to concerns by the State of Texas that it would not be able to get a positive preclearance ruling from the court in time to implement the law for the November 2012 elections. The state has said that it must have any positive ruling by August 15 at the very latest - and that even that late date would result in the state being able to implement only a basic voter education program before the November election.
And, as the three-judge panel made clear at a status conference last week, they were too want to get to an early decision if possible, with Judge Rosemary Collyer telling lawyers last week, "It's a big election year. We need to get it done"
However, the earlier date wasn't exactly a win for the state.
The court also directed that issues related to the constitutionality of section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (a major part of the state's case) be bifurcated from the main trial and said that those issues would "not be addressed unless the Court denies judicial preclearance of Senate Bill ."
Since that means that hearings on constitutional issues would take place only after a ruling on the preclearance claims (by definition some time after the July 13 end of trial), that would seem to make it less likely that the constitutional issues could be teed up in time to get them to the Supreme Court before the November elections.
If the case had reached the Supreme Court this summer, the case could have ended up as the vehicle conservative groups have long sought for re-raising the issue of the constitutionality of section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. That's something many observers feel voter ID is well suited for since the Supreme Court has already approved a voter ID law in Indiana, a non-section 5 state. Conservatives were expected to ask why a similar law could be acceptable in one jurisdiction but not in others.
The court's scheduling order can be found here.