The Supreme Court will allow Texas to use its controversial new voter identification law for the November election, despite a lower court’s ruling that the law unfairly targets minorities.
By a 6-3 vote in a rare Saturday morning ruling, the majority of justices rejected emergency appeals from the Justice Department and civil rights groups to prohibit requiring voters to produce certain forms of photo identification in order to cast ballots in the state.
Three justices, including Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented from the decision to enforce stricter voter ID standards for the election, less than three weeks away.
“The greatest threat to public confidence in elections in this case is the prospect of enforcing a purposefully discriminatory law, one that likely imposes an unconstitutional poll tax and risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters,” Ginsburg wrote in a six page dissent signed by Sotomayor and Kagan.
The high court’s move is a blow to civil rights advocates, marking the court’s fourth action on Republican-inspired restrictions on voting access in recent weeks.
Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) shot back at the Supreme Court’s decision on Saturday, calling it a “systematic effort to block voting access of certain segments of the population.”
"These laws, as they are written, put additional burdens on hundreds and thousands of voters, particularly the elderly, the poor, rural voters and minorities," Lewis said.
"These restrictions make it harder and more difficult for many registered voters, who have participated responsibly in elections for years, to have their voices heard in this society. We must not allow these efforts to go unchallenged," he added.
The Texas law was initially struck down by a federal judge last week, who said the “alleged goal of preventing voter fraud does not outweigh the discriminatory effect on the poor, African-Americans and Hispanics.” More than half a million registered voters, many of them black or Latino, could be turned away from polls because they lack acceptable identification.
But the 5th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals reinstated the law for the upcoming election on the grounds that such a drastic change so close to Election Day would be too disruptive.
Early voting in Texas begins Monday.
This post was updated at 4:50 p.m.