DOJ Reverses Course on Texas Voter ID Law Challenge

DOJ Reverses Course on Texas Voter ID Law Challenge

The issue before the federal court is whether Texas would be placed under pre-clearance, requiring it to run any changes to its election laws by the federal government before they go into effect.

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".

Texas and the US had asked to delay Tuesday's hearing until state lawmakers considered new legislation filed in the current legislative session: state Sen.

He and others have argued that hundreds of thousands of legitimate voters in the state lack the required ID, such as a driver's license or gun permit, and that many of them would have a hard time acquiring one.

"It's a complete 360", Danielle Lang, the Campaign Legal Center's deputy director of voting rights, told the Associated Press.

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The Justice Department will still take the position that the Texas voter ID law has a discriminatory impact on black and Latino voters, according to a source familiar with their decision. It is now considering a bill that would essentially lock the compromise in place, and impose high criminal penalties of between two and 10 years in prison for lying on the affidavit.

Speculation began that DOJ might reverse its long-held position in the case only hours after President Donald Trump was inaugurated.

The withdrawal comes after the Justice Department joined the state's attorney general to seek a delay in the case.

Then, shortly after Trump was inaugurated, Thomas Wheeler was appointed acting head of the DOJ's civil-rights division. He has asked Vice President Mike Pence to lead an investigation into those claims. The Huffington Post reported Wheeler personally offered advice to Texas lawmakers while Texas' law was being crafted.

"Despite their unlimited access to the confidential communications of Texas legislators who supported SB 14", Paxton's team wrote, "plaintiffs could proffer no evidence that any legislator harbored even a private intention to disenfranchise minority voters".

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

The DOJ had previously argued exactly that.

This Tuesday, that district court will hear the case for believing that the law was intentionally discriminatory. They point to a provision in the law that allows Texas voters to use their hunting licenses as identification, but not student identification cards.

While the Justice Department has yet to comment on the reason for altering its stance in the case, Mr. Hebert, whose center is among those challenging the law, said it had everything to do with the change in leadership at the Justice Department.

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