Justice Dept pulls out of Texas voter ID case

Carlos Barria  Reuters

But groups that oppose voter identification laws warned that the Texas law has the potential to keep 600,000 voters, mostly African-American and Hispanic, away from the polls.

Plaintiffs argued - convincingly, it turns out - that Huffman's bill could "ameliorate some of the discriminatory effects" of the current law.

The Trump Administration has confirmed it will drop a key claim against Texas' strict Voter ID law but it will not drop the lawsuit entirely. After President Donald Trump took office in January, the Justice Department joined Texas in asking U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos to delay any decision until the state's Republican-controlled legislature has a chance to fix the law itself.

Republicans say voter ID laws are needed to prevent voter fraud, but Democrats argue the laws are meant to block legitimate voters who tend to favor Democrats.

On Monday, the Department of Justice announced that it will no longer contest a controversial voter ID law in Texas, as reported by the Texas Tribune.

The law's opponents were notified of the switch one day before the question of discriminatory intent is set to be argued in federal court, according to officials at the Campaign Legal Center.


"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 objective claim if Texas enacts new voter ID legislation", the Texas and DOJ attorneys wrote in a joint motion. They also claim that the state legislature passed the law with the intention of discriminating against minority voters, primarily Hispanics, who are less likely to have the required ID.

A hearing in the case was scheduled for Tuesday in federal court in Texas.

In a scathing 147-page ruling in October 2014, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of Corpus Christi wrote, "The Court holds that SB 14 creates an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote, has an impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans, and was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory objective".

"If new Texas state voter identification legislation is enacted into law, it will significantly affect the remainder of this litigation", the DOJ and Texas jointly argued. On Jan. 20, lawyers for the DOJ requested that oral arguments regarding the law's intent be postponed in order to "brief the new leadership of the Department on this case and the issues to be addressed at that hearing before making any representations to the Court". The NAACP Legal Defense Fund is also involved in the challenge to the law.

"Private plaintiffs will continue to pursue justice in this matter", she said. The acting head of the DOJ's Civil Rights Division has already recused himself from the case because he offered Texas lawmakers advice on writing the law. A 2013 Supreme Court ruling sprung Texas and other states with a history of discrimination from that list.

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