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Texas Can Enforce Voter ID Law For November Election

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Earlier today, a divided U.S. Supreme Court announced they would not stand in the way of Texas's voter ID law for the November election. The state requires voters to produce certain forms of photo identification in order to cast ballots. Now the law was initially struck down by a federal judge last week. She found that close to 600,000 voters, many of them black or Latino, could be turned away at the polls for not having acceptable ID. But a federal appeals court put that decision on hold. NPR Supreme Court correspondent Nina Totenberg joins us. Nina, thanks for being with us.

NINA TOTENBERG, BYLINE: My pleasure.

SIMON: Practically speaking, what did the court do?

TOTENBERG: Well, it said to Texas, you can go ahead with your voter ID law - which is probably the strictest in the country - at least for now, for this election. And then ultimately, this is going to get back to the Supreme Court because what the court did today did not rule on whether this law is constitutional, whether, as the Justice Department and Civil Rights groups maintained, it's essentially a poll tax. So this case will get back to the Supreme Court, but for now, the Justice Department has lost a big case because in the State of Texas, this is going to go forward to the detriment, probably, of many, many voters.

SIMON: And those in dissent, which were Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, what did they say?

TOTENBERG: They pointed out that for about 400,000 voters, they would have to make a three-hour round-trip to get the kind of ID that they needed, that the state would except; for example, a Veterans Affairs ID or a four-year college ID. And in the end, wrote Justice Ginsburg for the three. The greatest threat to public confidence in this case is the prospect of enforcing a discriminatory law, one that likely imposes an unconstitutional poll tax and risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters. So that's what they said in the end; that they would have blocked this voter ID law from going into effect.

SIMON: So an important decision, but an even more important one ahead at some point.

TOTENBERG: That's exactly right. This is a big deal for this election, a stinging rebuke to the Obama administration, which really had sought to block the Texas law from going into effect. But it doesn't mean they're going to lose ultimately.

SIMON: NPR's Supreme Court correspondent, Nina Totenberg. Thanks so much.

TOTENBERG: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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