In what read like a pretty clear smack-down, the federal court hearing the Texas voter ID case yesterday ordered the state to get its act together and quit stalling—or lose all hope of implementing a voter ID law by the November elections.
The situation is somewhat ironic. Texas is suing the the Department of Justice since it did not approve the latest effort the state's voter ID law, among the most stringent in the nation. The DOJ argues the law will disproportionately impact minority voters. The state is racing against the clock, hoping to implement the law in time for the November elections—with the rather obvious subtext that this law will benefit Republican candidates by suppressing turnout among poor and minority voters who are likely to vote Democratic. The DOJ tried to delay the court date, set for July 9, but the court refused. Since then, however, the order said, "Defendants have worked tirelessly in discovery so that this case may be tried the week of July 9, 2012." The order also mentioned just how available the court itself had been.
Texas has repeated ignored or violated directives and orders of this Court that were designed to expedite discovery, and Texas has failed to produce in a timely manner key documents that Defendants need to prepare their defense. Most troubling is Texas’ conduct with respect to producing its key state databases, which are central to Defendants’ claim that S.B. 14 has a disparate and retrogressive impact on racial and/or language minority groups.
Now, according to the order, Texas must show by Wednesday that it can meet all the following deadlines—otherwise, the court says the July 9 date cannot stand and there's almost no way the voter ID requirement can be implemented in time for the elections. If any deadlines cannot be met, the court wrote, "the July 9 trial date is truly impossible"—which means no voter ID requirement for the November elections.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott's office responded to the order, blaming the DOJ for asking for too much. "The State has already produced roughly 25,000 pages of information and millions of records from State databases," the statement read. "If the DOJ devoted even a fraction of the time they have spent complaining about their purported need for more information to instead reviewing the information they have already been provided, then this trial could unquestionably proceed without further delay."