The U.S Supreme Court recently ruled to uphold the Texas Voter Law that will affect the upcoming November elections. The new law has changed the accepted forms of identification, stating that only certain types of identification will be accepted in to vote. Personal ids, drivers licenses, birth certificates, U.S. citizenship papers, a U.S passport, a federally-issued veteran’s ID card, a gun registration card, or some form of a utility bill are all acceptable forms of identification to vote in Texas.
Much of the debate circulates around the idea that the law will have major limitations on the amount of people able to vote. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the dissent for the case, stating the law is unnecessary because Texas did not have an issue with voter fraud and the law seems to target a singular crowd and is discriminatory.
However, a broader issue here is that the court is even able to rule on such an issue at a time so close to Election Day. The Supreme Court has ruled on at least four recent emergency actions in election matters. Justices also allowed Ohio to cut back on early voting and let North Carolina prohibit same-day voter registration and out-of-precinct voting. Contradictory to the Texas law, they blocked Wisconsin from enforcing its voter ID law for the midterms.
When it comes to election laws, it doesn’t matter if the court upholds or overturns a decision””either way it has a significant impact on voter turnout. One way increases the amount of people who can participate and the other way is restrictive. Whether that amount is actually detrimental to election results depends on one’s stance on the issue.
The court should be cautious making decisions with high impact so close to Election Day. Fifth Circuit judge Edith Brown Clement wrote that changing the voter ID rules “substantially disturbs the election process of the state of Texas just nine days before early voting begins.”
In 2006, a lower federal court halted Arizona’s voter ID law shortly before an election. The Supreme Court, in Purcell v. Gonzalez, reinstated the law. “Court orders affecting elections,” according to the justices, “can themselves result in voter confusion and consequent incentive to remain away from the polls. As an election draws closer, that risk will increase.” Thus, courts should be reluctant to hammer down decisions affecting election laws as Election Day draws near.