The U.S. Department of Justice is suing the State of Texas over its voter ID law.
It's the DOJ’s latest attempt to require Texas to get federal approval before making changes to its election laws. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the Voting Rights Act in June. It got rid of Section 4 – the formula that had required some states, including Texas, to get preclearance from the federal government for any changes to voting procedures.
After that decision, Texas’ Attorney General announced a state law passed in 2011 requiring voters to show ID at the polls was immediately in effect. The law had previously been challenged under the preclearance provision.
The lawsuit announced today seeks to have the voter ID law declared unconstitutional. The Justice Department also wants a court to reinstate the preclearance requirement for Texas under a section of the Voting Rights Act left untouched by the Supreme Court – Section 3.
“The preclearance regime is reserved for states that have a repeated pattern of Voting Rights violations. And I think the Justice Department has a pretty good case that Texas does have such a repeated pattern. But that’s what they’ll have to convince a court of," University of Texas at Austin law professor Joseph Fishkin said.
Top Texas lawmakers are already speaking out against the DOJ’s plans.
Governor Rick Perry:
“The filing of endless litigation in an effort to obstruct the will of the people of Texas is what we have come to expect from Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama. We will continue to defend the integrity of our elections against this administration’s blatant disregard for the 10th Amendment.”
Texas Senator John Cornyn:
“Facts mean little to a politicized Justice Department bent on inserting itself into the sovereign affairs of Texas and a lame-duck Administration trying to turn our state blue.“As Texans we reject the notion that the federal government knows what’s best for us. We deserve the freedom to make our own laws and we deserve not to be insulted by a Justice Department committed to scoring cheap political points.”
Attorney General Greg Abbott:
“Just days after the U.S. Department of Justice arrested a Texas woman for illegally voting five times in the same election, the Obama administration is suing to stop Texas’ commonsense voter ID law. The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that voter ID laws do not suppress legal votes, but do help prevent illegal votes. Voter IDs have nothing to do with race and they are free to anyone who needs one. Eric Holder's outrageous claim that voter ID is a racist plot to disenfranchise minority voters is gutter politics and is offensive to the overwhelming majority of Texans of all races who support this ballot integrity measure.
“By intervening in the redistricting case, the Obama DOJ is predictably joining with Democrat state legislators and Members of Congress and the Texas Democratic Party, who are already suing the State. Also, by challenging the 2011 redistricting plans, Eric Holder is trying to resurrect a law that was never implemented and no longer exists -- and then sue it. The 2011 redistricting plans have been replaced with plans that largely mimic plans drawn by three federal judges.
“Just two months ago the U.S. Supreme Court struck down federal preapproval of state election laws. The Court emphasized that the Tenth Amendment empowers states -- not the federal government -- to regulate elections. The Obama administration continues to ignore the Tenth Amendment and repeated Supreme Court decisions upholding states' authority to enforce voter identification and redistricting laws.
“The Obama administration needs to move beyond the cynical politics of race and focus on the real issues affecting the daily lives of all Americans, regardless of their race.”
Fishkin says what happens with the Texas case could have a national impact.
“Depending on what happens here, we may similar litigation in a few other states that used to be covered by the formula," Fishkin said.