Justice Department will challenge Texas Voter ID law

August 22, 2013

The U.S. Justice Department announced Thursday that it will challenge Texas's Voter ID law, saying it violates the Voting Rights Act, as well as the Constitution's 14th and 15th Amendments.

In a separate case, the Justice Department will also join in a challenge to the state's GOP-drawn redistricting plans.

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Attorney General Eric Holder (SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

The decisions come just weeks after the Supreme Court struck down part of the act that determines which jurisdictions require the Justice Department to approve any electoral changes before they become law. Texas had previously been subject to the so-called "preclearance."

Justice Department officials have made clear that, despite the court's decision, it will use other legal avenues to ensure that Voter ID laws and other legislation don't infringe on the voting rights of minorities.

“Today’s action marks another step forward in the Justice Department’s continuing effort to protect the voting rights of all eligible Americans,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement. “We will not allow the Supreme Court’s recent decision to be interpreted as open season for states to pursue measures that suppress voting rights."

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) said the lawsuit is the latest example of the Obama Administration's overreach.

“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," Perry said. "We will continue to defend the integrity of our elections against this administration’s blatant disregard for the 10th Amendment.”

The department's complain alleges that the Texas Voter ID law "was adopted with the purpose, and will have the result, of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group." It asks that the law be halted altogether.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) decided to move forward with implementing the new law following the Supreme Court's decision.

"Anyone who disagrees with the Department of Justice’s decision should blame Greg Abbott -- for continuing to push a law that clearly disregards the promise at the heart of the Voting Rights Act," said Matt Angle, a Texas Democratic consultant director of the Lone Star Project.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), said the Justice Department has been politicized and is "inserting itself into the sovereign affairs of Texas."

“As Texans, we reject the notion that the federal government knows what’s best for us," Cornyn said.

In the redistricting case, Perez v. Perry, the Justice Department will argue against the GOP state legislature's congressional and state House redistricting maps, which were drawn in 2011, saying that they also suppress minority voters.

Those maps were not used in the 2012 election, as they were already being challenged in court and the Justice Department declined to approve them under preclearance. Instead, interim maps drawn by a three-judge panel were used.

The Justice Department is also asking the court to "bail in" Texas -- i.e. rule that its electoral changes require preclearance. The Supreme Court struck down the formula used to determine which jurisdictions require preclearance, but not the practice preclearance itself.

The Justice Department is also looking at challenging a new law in North Carolina that includes Voter ID and several other measures that minority groups and Democrats say are designed to suppress the vote.

Here is the official complaint:

Originally posted at 12:47 p.m.

Related:

Democrats strike back on voter ID laws

Colin Powell criticizes North Carolina's new voter law

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.
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