Supreme Court Declines to Hear Texas Voter ID Case, But CJ Roberts Signals Review Likely Later

The Supreme Court declined to review the Texas voter id case today, but Chief Justice Roberts strongly signaled that the Court could well grant review when the case is fully complete in the lower court (and when, it is likely, there will be five conservative votes yet again on the Supreme Court):

The Texas officials who are defendants in this lawsuit have petitioned for certiorari. Their petition asks the Court to review whether the Texas Legislature enacted SB14 with a discriminatory purpose and whether the law results in a denial or abridgment of the right to vote under §2. Although there is no barrier to our review, the discriminatory purpose claim is in an interlocutory posture, having been remanded for further consideration. As for the §2 claim, the District Court has yet to enter a final remedial order. Petitioners may raise either or both issues again after entry of final judgment. The issues will be better suited for certiorari review at that time.

What does this mean?  In the short term this is good news for Texas voters (who get the benefit of the softened Texas voter id rules ordered by the Fifth Circuit and trial court) and for voting rights activists, who have the benefit of a Section 2 precedent from the Fifth Circuit that helps to strike down some of these more restrictive laws. And the trial court gets to make the record on whether Texas passed its law with a discriminatory purpose.

In the long run, however, things are much less certain. Either in this case, and/or in the North Carolina voting case (cert. petition now pending), the Court could eventually rein in the meaning of Section 2 (both intent and effect) to deal with restrictive voting laws. Within a few years, I expect the Court will likely do so, making it harder to challenge these laws and encouraging more Republican legislatures to enact similar laws.

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