The Department of Justice announced today that it will sue Texas, the Texas Secretary of State, and the Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety over the state’s new voter identification law (S.B. 14). The law creates strict new standards that the Justice Department believes to be in violation of both Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and the guarantees of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments.
“Today’s action marks another step forward in the Justice Department’s continuing effort to protect the voting rights of all eligible Americans,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. In June, the Supreme Court ruled that requiring states to get preclearance before changing voting rules was unconstitutional. After that ruling, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said that the voter I.D. law would immediately go into effect.
The Attorney General seeks to use the sections of the Voting Rights Act that the Court did not vacate. “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,” he said. “The Department will take action against jurisdictions that attempt to hinder access to the ballot box, no matter where it occurs. We will keep fighting aggressively to prevent voter disenfranchisement. We are determined to use all available authorities, including remaining sections of the Voting Rights Act, to guard against discrimination and, where appropriate, to ask federal courts to require preclearance of new voting changes.”
The Department also announced it would be filing a complaint against the state’s redistricting plan, which it also believes violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and the voting guarantees of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments.
If federal courts determine that Texas is guilty of “persistent, intentional discrimination” in either case, the Department will argue that the state should be subject to preclearance requirements under Section 3 of the Voting Rights Act.
Scott Eric Kaufman is the proprietor of the AV Club's Internet Film School and, in addition to Raw Story, also writes for Lawyers, Guns & Money. He earned a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of California, Irvine in 2008.
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