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District Court: Voter ID Unlikely for 2012

The Texas attorney general's office issued a statement in response to today's court order and scheduling guidelines in the state's lawsuit against the Department of Justice over the voter ID bill.

In another blow to advocates of Texas' voter ID law, a federal district court ruled today that the law will probably not be in place by the November general election unless the state turns over requested documents by Wednesday.

The law requires that voters furnish photo identification before casting a ballot. 

The U.S. Department of Justice -- which Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott's office is suing after it declined to approve the measure -- is accusing the state of stalling the delivery of key data the federal government says is necessary for the trial.

Late last month, DOJ asked the district court in Washington, D.C., that will hear the case to postpone the trial. It is scheduled to start July 9. In an order issued today, the court said that Texas has not acted with a sense of urgency.

"Rather than engaging in expedited discovery consistent with its stated goal, Texas has taken steps that can only be interpreted as having the aim of delaying Defendants' ability to receive and analyze data and documents in a timely fashion," the court stated. "Texas has repeatedly 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."

The court gave the state one final chance today, with very specific conditions, to turn over the information the Department of Justice is seeking. The department is specifically asking for databases and voter information it says will prove the voter ID measure will have a "disparate and retrogressive" impact on minority voters.

"If any of these deadlines or conditions cannot or will not be met, then the delays or ancillary litigation that will result will either make a July 9 trial impossible at all, or impossible without undue and manifest prejudice to the United States and Defendant-Intervenors," the order instructs.

The state must turn over to the government by Wednesday proof that it has discussed this month's deadlines with document custodians, technology staff, legal and administrative staff and prove that it can meet every subsequent trial deadline. 

Additionally, the state must produce legislators that have been subpoenaed, something Abbott tried to block last month.

The department argued that it should be allowed to "depose those legislators believed to have had the most active role in drafting, introducing, and advocating for SB 14."

The Texas Democratic Party said today's order makes it is obvious the state has something to hide.

"The Court is getting tired of the State's games on voter ID. The State of Texas continues to drag its feet and hide information on the effects of their voter suppression legislation," said Democratic Party spokeswoman Rebecca Acua. 
 
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://trib.it/IzdY1M.

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