The U.S. Department of Justice announced on Thursday that it will again seek to dismantle Texas’ voter ID law, this time with a lawsuit alleging the measure violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The department also said on Thursday that it will seek to have Texas’ redistricting maps declared unconstitutional.
Section 2 of the 1965 act prohibits voting laws that discriminate based on race, color or membership in a minority group. Thursday’s decision by the U.S. Department of Justice comes after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June that allowed implementation of the state law that requires voters to furnish a valid photo ID before casting a ballot. Prior to that ruling, the department and, separately, a three-judge panel of federal judges in Washington, had struck down the 2011 state law after denying Texas’ request for preclearance. The high court’s ruling eliminated the preclearance requirement.
“Today’s action marks another step forward in the Justice Department’s continuing effort to protect the voting rights of all eligible Americans,” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement about the voter ID provision. “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 DOJ also said that it will seek “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.” That, too, is in violation of Section 2 and the 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the department alleges.
The DOJ said it would file suit against the state of Texas, the Texas secretary of state and the Texas Department of Public Safety. The Texas DPS is the agency charged with issuing state-issued IDs or driver’s licenses.
The secretary of state’s office has not received a copy of the lawsuit and will review it when it is received, said Alicia Pierce, the agency’s spokeswoman.
In its statement, the DOJ added that it would ask the court to subject the state to new preclearance requirements under Section 3 of the act.
A copy of the statement is here, a copy of the lawsuit is here, and a roundup of reactions, which go about as you’d expect them to, is here and here. The NAACP is also seeking to join in the DOJ suit over voter ID. Given the recent brouhaha in Edinburg, where city council elections are about to be held, it would be nice if the DOJ could secure an injunction against the voter ID law, to keep things as they were before. We’ll see about that. In the meantime, buckle your seatbelts, it’s going to get bumpy from here. SCOTUSBlog, which has a typically detailed description of the two lawsuits, Daily Kos, Texas Politics, Ari Berman, Molly Redden, Rick Hasen, who wonders about preliminary injunctive relief, BOR, and Trail Blazers have more, while TPM wonders if North Carolina will be next.
UPDATE: Some background information on the case from Texas Redistricting, which summarizes what the DOJ is pursuing. The original lawsuit against the voter ID law has now been amended with extra complaints.