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The Brief: Aug. 6, 2015

Opponents of Texas' voter ID law got a partial victory yesterday with an appeals court panel's decision that the law violates a section of the Voting Rights Act, which was signed 50 years ago today.

Signs greeting early voters are shown in October 2014 outside the Lakeside Activity Center in Mesquite.

The Big Conversation

Opponents of Texas' voter ID law got a partial victory Wednesday with an appeals court panel's decision that the law violates a section of the Voting Rights Act, which was signed 50 years ago today.

The three-judge panel wrote that Texas' law, Senate Bill 14, effectively discriminates against some voters, although it disagreed with a lower court's decision that the law is an unconstitutional "poll tax." The Tribune's Jim Malewitz has more:

The three-judge panel's unanimous decision sent the case back to a lower court, which will decide how Texas should fix its problems. But for now, the law stands as is. ...

[In October, a district court judge] found clear racial disparities between those who have IDs under SB 14 and those who do not, and she said the law continued a legacy of state-sponsored discrimination in Texas.

Wednesday’s opinion upheld those findings. ...

“We conclude that the district court did not clearly err in determining that SB 14 has a discriminatory effect on minorities’ voting rights in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act," wrote Judge Catharina Haynes.

Yet the appeals court ruling disagreed with an earlier finding that the law was effectively a poll tax, which Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said was "a victory on the fundamental question of Texas’ right to protect the integrity of our elections."

The court's decision, wrote election law expert Rick Hasen on his Election Law Blog, seems to have been "written as narrowly as possible to still give a victory to the plaintiffs." 

The Associated Press, meanwhile, has a Q&A that breaks down the impact of Wednesday's ruling. And PolitiFact Texas links to several claims it's rated about election integrity and voter ID.

Trib Must-Reads

Analysis: Blame, Reputation and the Long Road Back, by Ross Ramsey — The political blaming started quickly after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's indictments on Monday, and the elections will see some argument over who's shooting at the AG. But it will take more than politics to save his reputation.

Obamacare Health Plans to Get Special Label, by Jeremy Lin, Edgar Walters and Ryan Murphy — Texans who purchased insurance under Obamacare will soon have a special label on their insurance cards. Use our interactive map to see where Texans are purchasing these plans. This story is part of our 31 Days, 31 Ways series.  

Climate Pleas from Pope, President Fall Flat in Texas, by Kiah Collier — Pope Francis has called on people of faith and science to come together and address the perils of climate change, and President Obama has finalized his ambitious carbon-cutting Clean Power Plan. But Texas Republicans aren't signing on, Catholic or not.

Houston Prosecutor to Investigate Planned Parenthood, by Edgar Walters — At the urging of state leaders, Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson announced Wednesday she would launch a criminal investigation of a Houston Planned Parenthood clinic.

Judge: Texas Must Name Gay Spouse on Death Certificate, by Liz Crampton — A federal judge ruled Wednesday that Texas must recognize the same-sex marriage of a Conroe resident by naming him as the surviving spouse on his late husband's death certificate. The judge also ordered Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to appear in court.

Analysis: Paxton and the High Expense of a Good Defense, by Ross Ramsey — Attorney General Ken Paxton, facing three indictments on securities charges, is up against a hard fact of the criminal justice system: Defending yourself is very expensive.

General Land Office Touts Move Online, by Jim Malewitz — The Texas General Land Office says it held the first online oil and gas lease auction in the state’s history on Tuesday, netting some $20 million for public schools. Land Commissioner George P. Bush is taking credit for the move.

The Day Ahead

•      To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act's signing, the LBJ Presidential Library hosts a 10:30 a.m. news conference and the launch of the Great Travis County Voter Registration Challenge. Among the speakers will be Luci Baines Johnson, who watched her father sign the bill into law.

•      The 2016 Republican candidates face off on Fox News, with Ted Cruz participating in the prime-time debate and Rick Perry on an earlier televised forum.

Elsewhere

Fox News Moderators Look for Ways to Keep 10 Candidates on Their Toes, The New York Times

Perry seeks traction in secondary debate; Trump has the spotlight, The Dallas Morning News

Super PAC spends big to put Perry on TV, San Antonio Express-News

Ted Cruz Gets A Bill Passed, Bloomberg

Cornyn Bill Would Tighten Mental Health Tracking Ahead of Gun Purchases, Wall Street Journal

In new legal woe, Ken Paxton faces contempt of court, Austin American-Statesman

Dash cam video captures interaction between lawmaker, deputy, Houston Chronicle

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick: Senate will pass ‘sanctuary cities’ bill in 2017, The Dallas Morning News

Equal rights ordinance heads to voters in November, Houston Chronicle

How 2013 breakfast with Castros started S.A. on road to Google Fiber, San Antonio Express-News

Aides to Ron Paul's 2012 presidential campaign indicted, The Associated Press

Texas high school graduation rates continue climb, hit 88.3 percent, Austin American-Statesman

George W. Bush causes a stir at George Allen courthouse when called for jury duty, The Dallas Morning News

Quote to Note

"It stands in sharp contrast to the Democratic field, which at times feels like a rerun of the TV sitcom 'That 70's Show.'"

— U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz praising his fellow GOP candidates in a Washington Post interview, saying Republicans this year have "an amazingly diverse field with young, talented dynamic leaders."

Today in TribTalk

To face our history, let Confederate monuments stand, by Regina Nippert — Erasing Southern generals from public memory won’t heal our racist heritage or halt the propaganda machine that brought us the myth of the noble Southerner. 

News From Home

•      On this week's TribCast, Emily Ramshaw talks with Ross Ramsey, Morgan Smith and Patrick Svitek about Attorney General Ken Paxton's legal hot water, Rick Perry's failure to make the first GOP debate and the latest undercover Planned Parenthood video — this one in Texas.

•      The latest episode of The Ticket, a co-production of the Tribune and KUT is out. Jay Root and Ben Philpott take us back in time for a review of classic presidential debate moments. And they interview GOP consultant Deirdre Delisi about what the candidates are doing to get ready for the first GOP debate.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•      The Texas Tribune's Trivia Night on Aug. 30 in Austin 

•      A Conversation with Austin Mayor Steve Adler and San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor on Sept. 4 in Austin

•      A Conversation on The Road from Hurricane Rita on Sept. 22 in Beaumont

•      The Texas Tribune Festival on Oct. 16-18 at the University of Texas at Austin

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