January 23, 2017
By Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear an appeal by Texas seeking to revive the state’s strict Republican-backed voter-identification requirements that a lower court found had a discriminatory effect on black and Hispanic people.
The justices let stand a July 2016 decision by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that found that the 2011 Texas statute ran afoul of a federal law that bars racial discrimination in elections and directed a lower court to find a way to fix the law’s discriminatory effects against minorities.
There were no noted dissents from the high court’s decision not to hear the case from any of the eight justices, but Chief Justice John Roberts took the unusual step of issuing a statement explaining why the case was not taken up, noting that litigation on the matter is continuing in lower courts.
Roberts said that although there was “no barrier to our review,” all the legal issues can be raised on appeal at a later time.
A special 15-judge panel of the New Orleans-based appeals court ruled 9-6 that the Texas law had a discriminatory effect and violated the U.S. Voting Rights Act. The judges were divided differently on other parts of the ruling.
The appeals court directed a federal district court to examine claims by the plaintiffs that the law was actually intended to be discriminatory, rather than merely having a discriminatory effect.
A hearing on that part of the case was scheduled for Jan. 24 but has now been delayed following a request from President Donald Trump’s administration. While former President Barack Obama’s administration had backed the challenge to the Texas requirements, the Trump administration could change course.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)