Attorneys for U.S. Congressman Mark Veasey (D-TX) and other plaintiffs have filed an Emergency Application[PDF] with the U.S. Supreme Court, seeking to restore a lower court ruling that struck down the law last week as intentionally discriminatory and an unconstitutional poll tax. That initial U.S. District Court ruling was subsequently stayed by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this week.
Veasey's application was followed by the filing of another Emergency Application [PDF] by the United States Department of Justice (DoJ). Both were filed with Justice Antonin Scalia who oversees the 5th Circuit. Scalia has instructed the DoJ to respond by 5p ET on Thursday.
Both applications to SCOTUS were filed in the case of Veasey v. Perry in which a U.S. District Court, after a full trial on the merits, imposed a permanent injunction, preventing the State of Texas from implementing the nation's strictest photo ID law, Senate Bill 14 (SB 14).
The District Court determined that, if implemented, SB 14 could disenfranchise more than 600,000 registered Texas voters who are disproportionately black and Hispanic. The District Court not only ruled that SB 14 violated the U.S. Constitution, the Voting Rights Act (VRA) and amounted to an unconstitutional poll tax, but expressly found that it was passed as the result of deliberate and willful racial discrimination.
The emergency petitions ask that the Supreme Court lift the U.S. 5th Circuit's 11th hour stay of the injunction so as to prevent electoral chaos and confusion in the rapidly approaching November election. In the first petition, the Veasey plaintiffs argue that what the 5th Circuit did in this case --- stay a permanent injunction that was issued on the basis of a District Court finding of intentional discrimination after a full trial on the merits --- was "virtually unheard of" in the annals of American jurisprudence.
Plaintiffs contend that the 5th Circuit misapplied a leading Supreme Court case, Purcell v. Gonzalez [PDF] (2006) pertaining to the issuance of injunctions on the eve of a pending election. That case does not, as the 5th Circuit ruled, mandate a per se rule that always precludes changing a law immediately prior to an election. The DoJ contends that no such per se "rule exists, and the court of appeals clearly and demonstrably erred in failing to apply the established stay factors."
Instead, plaintiffs forcefully argue, "The Purcell principle", mandates that an appellate court give deference to the factual findings of the District Court. The 5th Circuit, they add, erred by ignoring the requirement of Purcell that Texas prove it would likely succeed on an appeal. The 5th Circuit also erred, they say, because it failed to balance the state's allegations about possible confusion that might ensue from implementing pre-SB 14 law against the "actual" confusion, chaos and mass disenfranchisement that the District Court, based upon uncontested evidence, concluded would occur if SB 14 is enforced in the November 4th election (early voting begins in TX on October 20th).
"Imagine that a state passed a law, six months before an election, stating that 'Negroes cannot vote,'" the plaintiffs write. "It would be ludicrous for an appellate court to turn around and stay that injunction because of some per se rule that election laws can never change immediately prior to elections"...