Surprise! DoJ to switch sides on Texas voter-ID lawsuit

Cheryl Sanders
February 27, 2017

Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. But Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has defended the law as necessary to prevent voter fraud.

An attorney for a voting rights group says President Donald Trump's administration has told her that the federal government no longer plans to challenge Texas' strict voter ID law.

On Tuesday, DOJ lawyers will appear before U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos and inform her that the federal government is dismissing its claim that the voter ID law was crafted with a discriminatory intent.

The Obama appointee had held that the Texas photo voter ID law violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965 because it: had an impermissible discriminatory effect, including deliberate discrimination against blacks and Hispanics; violated the Equal Protection Clause; and unconstitutionally offended voting rights guaranteed under the Fifteenth Amendment. It doesn't bring it to an end; the lawsuit has already gone to the Fifth Circuit, which has ruled that the law is discriminatory but wants the lower court to determine whether it was intentionally discriminatory.

Last week, the Justice Department and the Texas attorney general's office asked Ramos to postpone Tuesday's hearing because Republicans in the Legislature filed a bill to revamp the Texas voter ID law to track numerous provisions the court required the state to employ to make sure people could vote in November if they were unable to secure a state-approved ID.

The DOJ's new position is a disappointment to voting rights advocates, and evidently within the Civil Rights Division, where lawyers were anxious about the future of the division under Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. "There haven't been any changes in the facts". Civil rights groups, including the NAACP, sided with Democrats against Sessions, warning about his attitudes toward race. A 2013 Supreme Court ruling sprung Texas and other states with a history of discrimination from that list.

As partisan-fueled court battles over state voting laws are poised to shape the political landscape in 2016 and beyond, new Gallup research shows four in five Americans support both early voting and voter ID laws. One, filed by state Sen.

The 2011 law required that voters present one of seven forms of government identification in order to cast a ballot. It would also create harsh criminal penalties for those who falsely claim they need to choose from the expanded list of options.

A federal appeals court past year ruled that the Texas law discriminated against minorities and the poor, and ordered changes ahead of the November election.

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