AUSTIN (AP) – A federal court has warned Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott to turn over evidence in the voter ID case because further delay will make it impossible for the law to take effect in time for the November general election.
In a sternly worded order released late Monday, a three-judge panel in Washington said that if Texas didn’t begin submitting key evidence in 48 hours and meet all remaining deadlines, then the July trial will be delayed further.
The judges are trying to decide if the voter ID law complies with the federal Voting Rights Act, which bans some states with a history or racial discrimination from passing new election laws without federal approval, a process known as preclearance. The new Texas law requires voters to show a government-issued photo ID.
Federal attorneys say the law will disproportionately keep minorities from voting and have sought to block the law, leading to the federal lawsuit. They have repeatedly complained that Abbott’s staff has used legal maneuvers to avoid turning over important documents and keeping lawmakers from testifying, an allegation Abbott has denied.
The judges, however, appear to have lost patience.
“Although Texas states that its paramount objective is obtaining preclearance … 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 order signed by all three judges said. “Texas has repeatedly ignored or violated directives and orders of this Court that were designed to expedite (the trial process).”
Jerry Strickland, Abbott’s communications director, placed the blame on the U.S. attorney general’s office and lawyers for the minority groups that also oppose Texas’ voter ID law.
“The Department of Justice, and partisans who oppose the voter ID law, have issued endless discovery requests seeking millions of records that have nothing to do with this case,” Strickland said. “The state has already produced roughly 25,000 pages of information and millions of records from state databases.”
State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, the Democratic leader of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, said it was clear from the court order that Abbott had used delaying tactics to avoid turning over state databases that would prove the voter ID law will hurt minority voters, such as drivers’ license records and concealed handgun license data.
“The Attorney General would do well to stop playing games in press releases and instead adhere to the court’s orders,” Fischer said.
The court ordered the state to begin producing the databases requested by Wednesday and documents by Friday. The judges also said Texas cannot attempt to block anyone else from testifying.
If Abbott misses any further deadlines, the judges said they would delay the trial, a step that would make it impossible to enforce the law on Nov. 6. In court papers, the attorney general’s office said it would meet the Wednesday deadline.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)