Trump administration will formally end opposition to Texas voter ID law

Posted March 01, 2017

In Shelby County v. Holder, the high court threw out Voting Rights Act requirements that states and counties with a history of discrimination get approval for any voting law changes from the federal government - giving Texas leave to implement the law.

The US Department of Justice has dropped its long-standing opposition to a key aspect of Texas' voter ID law. Attorneys for a voting rights group found that the new management of the Department of Justice has a much different view of voter-ID laws than it did during the Obama administration.

"At a minimum, the State Defendants and the United States anticipate that the parties would file a new round of briefing and present a new round of oral argument on the discriminatory goal claim if Texas enacts new voter ID legislation", the Texas and DOJ attorneys wrote in a joint motion.

The U.S. Department of Justice confirmed Monday it plans to ditch its longstanding position that Texas lawmakers purposefully discriminated against minority voters by passing the nation's strictest voter identification law in 2011.

In August 2016, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the state to temporarily change the state's voter ID law to allow people who did not possess a government-issued photo ID to vote in alternative ways, such as with bank statements or utility bills, and then sign an affidavit explaining their "reasonable impediment" stopping them from obtaining the ID.

"I'm still not clear on how that new law affects this case", U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos in Corpus Christi, Texas, told lawyers. #DOJ abandoning its position that #Texas #VoterID law was adopted with discriminatory objective.

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"It's a complete 360", Lang told the Associated Press.

Civil rights groups sued in 2013, and the Obama Justice Department supported them.

The law being challenged was enacted in 2011 and required Texas residents to show one of seven forms of approved identification in order to cast a ballot.

In its court filing, the Justice Department asked Ramos to permit it to withdraw its claim that Texas acted with intent, arguing that it is best to give the Texas Legislature time to address the matter.

Civil rights groups have expressed fears that this new investigation will provide an incentive to state legislatures to adopt new restrictions on voters' rights.

Danielle Lang of the Washington-based Campaign Legal Center called the decision an "extraordinary disappointment". The conservative court, however, sent the case back to a district court to examine whether the law was also passed with a discriminatory intent - which is the point of Tuesday's planned proceedings. The law requires voters to present a limited array of government-issued photo IDs when voting in person - which include a Texas driver's license, a Texas handgun license or a military identification card, but not federal or state government identification card or student ID.