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Texas wants to take its voter identification battle to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Friday asked the justices to hear his arguments about why the state’s photo ID requirements for voting do not discriminate against Hispanics and African-American voters.
“Safeguarding the integrity of our elections is essential to preserving our democracy,” the Republican said in a statement. "Texas enacted a common-sense voter ID law and I am confident that the U.S. Supreme Court will ultimately reinstate it.”
Texas officials say the voter ID law bolsters the integrity of elections by preventing voter fraud, which Gov. Greg Abbott has called "rampant." But the U.S. Department of Justice and other plaintiffs — backed by court rulings — have pointed out that in-person voter fraud is incredibly rare.
In July, U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed lower court rulings that the 2011 law, considered the nation’s strictest, violates the federal Voting Rights Act. In a 9-6 ruling, the conservative court agreed that narrowly tailored requirements disproportionately affected minority voters — those who were less likely to hold one of seven types of photo ID. Those include: a state driver's license or ID card, a concealed handgun license, a U.S. passport, a military ID card, a U.S citizenship certificate or an election identification certificate.
Experts have testified that more than 600,000 Texans lack such identification, though not all of them have necessarily tried to vote.
Paxton is appealing to a Supreme Court that still has just eight members, following the February death of Justice Antonin Scalia. If the justices agree to hear the case — and if they do so without a replacement for Scalia — Paxton would need five votes to overturn the appeals court ruling. A 4-4 split would allow it to stand.