Justice Dept. suing Texas over voter I.D. laws and joining redistricting lawsuit

justice dept

Updated Aug. 23 at 12:30 p.m. – Matt Angle, Lone Star Project Director, on DOJ challenge to Texas voter ID law

“Greg Abbott’s decision to move forward with the Texas voter ID law is a clear violation of the Voting Rights Act and forces the Department of Justice to enter the ongoing voter ID litigation

“Abbott and Republican leaders could have – and should have – made the changes needed in the law during the legislative session, avoiding the disruption and expense of continued litigation. 

“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.”

Update at 4:00 p.m. Rep. Marc Veasey’s office shared a statement on his behalf:

“Attorney General Greg Abbott has left the Department of Justice no choice but to file this lawsuit.  The fact that Abbott would move to enforce a law already found to be discriminatory by a federal court is regretful and casts a bad light on our state. It’s a sad fact that year after year; minorities in Texas are shown over and over again that we cannot depend on Abbott to protect our voting rights. And again, he is also spending the dollars of hard working taxpayers to implement and wage court battles to uphold this discriminatory law.  My question for Abbott is simple, “at what point do you stop?” said Rep. Veasey.”

Update at 3:30 p.m. Texas Attorney General Gregg Abbott’s statement regarding lawsuit:

“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.””

Update at 1:45 p.m. Rep. Eric Johnson released the following statement:

“I applaud U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to join the fight against the vote-suppressing Texas Voter ID law. Before the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, the Voter ID law had been blocked by the federal government because of its blatantly discriminatory nature.

Since the Texas Legislature was unwilling to repeal the Voter ID law this session, we must take every step we can under the remaining provisions of the Voting Rights Act to protect the voting rights of everyone.

Attorney General Holder is doing the right thing by joining the fight against this disenfranchising law, and I hope his efforts are successful.”


Department of Justice’s press release announcing the legal actions

The Department of Justice announced today that it will file a new lawsuit against the State of Texas, the Texas Secretary of State, and the Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety over the State’s strict voter photo identification law (SB 14). The United States’ complaint seeks a declaration that SB 14 violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, as well as the voting guarantees of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

Separately, the Department is filing a motion to intervene as a party and a complaint in intervention against the State of Texas and the Texas Secretary of State in the ongoing case of Perez v. Perry (W.D. Tex.), which concerns the state’s redistricting laws. The United States had already filed a statement of interest in this case last month. Today’s action represents a new step by the Department in this case that will allow the United States to formally present evidence about the purpose and effect of the Texas redistricting plans.

“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. “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. 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. This represents the Department’s latest action to protect voting rights, but it will not be our last.”

In the voter ID lawsuit, the United States’ complaint contends that SB 14 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. The complaint asks the court to prohibit Texas from enforcing the requirements of its law, and also requests that the court order bail-in relief under Section 3 of the Voting Rights Act. If granted, this would subject Texas to a new preclearance requirement.

In the Department’s other filing announced today, the United States seeks a declaration that Texas’s 2011 redistricting plans for the U.S. Congress and the Texas State House of Representatives were adopted with the purpose of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group in violation of Section 2, as well as the voting guarantees of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. The complaint also requests that the court order bail-in pursuant to Section 3(c) of the Voting Rights Act, to remedy persistent, intentional discrimination in voting within the State of Texas.

“The Department of Justice will use all the tools it has available to ensure that each citizen can cast a ballot free from impermissible discrimination,” said Jocelyn Samuels, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The right to the franchise is one of the most fundamental promises of American democracy.”

If the federal courts in either the redistricting or voter identification cases find that the State of Texas should be covered by Section 3(c), then the State would be required to submit voting changes to the U.S. Attorney General or to the federal court for review prior to implementation to ensure that the changes do not have a discriminatory effect or a discriminatory purpose. The Department has previously participated as amicus in the Perez case, and last month advised the federal court in Texas that the Department believed the imposition of a new preclearance requirement on Texas under Section 3(c) of the Voting Rights Act was appropriate. Today’s filing asks the Court to allow the Department to participate as a party in further proceedings on the question of whether Texas should be made subject to Section 3(c).

A federal court in the District of Columbia has previously held that Texas had failed to meet its burden of proving that its 2011 redistricting plans and its 2011 voter identification law were not discriminatory under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. These decisions were vacated after the Supreme Court’s June decision in Shelby County v. Holder. The Supreme Court’s decision left unaffected the non-discrimination requirements of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, as well as the bail-in provisions of Section 3 of the Voting Rights Act, and today’s filings seek to enforce those important protections.

Source: DOJ

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