Quick Reaction to 5th Circuit ID Order

Essentially, all the marbles of this 5th Circuit order come down to “it’s too close to the election to stop the law from going into effect, because pollworkers will be confused.”

It’s important to recognize that the court of appeals did not disturb the district court’s findings that some individuals do not have and will not likely be able to timely get the documents in question.  But the panel is particularly concerned about inconsistent application of the new ID rule if the district court’s opinion is allowed to take effect.  That is, the court is concerned that some pollworkers may demand the restricted set of ID documents in the new law (preventing some individuals without the narrow set of ID from voting anything other than a provisional ballot), and some pollworkers may demand the less restricted set of the old law.

So instead, the court makes it legal for all pollworkers to demand the more restricted set (preventing all individuals without the right ID from voting a valid ballot at all).

Or, translated even further: if we let the district court’s order stand, some people without the right ID will be able to vote, and some won’t.  And if we stay the district court, all people without the right ID won’t be able to vote.  And in elections, “all” is better than “some.”

To me, at least, that’s a foolish consistency.  As I’ve explained, it’s one thing to stop last-minute changes when the impact is less dire for those affected, another to stop last-minute changes when the change is new and unfamiliar, and still another to stop last-minute changes when the reason for the change isn’t clear.  But after a full trial and 147 pages of both facts and rationale, returning the state to rules that had been in place for years, and when the state had already started to cut back on offering the IDs now required?

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