Department of Justice Sues Texas Over Voter ID Law

PHOTO: U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder testifies before the Senate Appropriations Committee June 6, 2013 in Washington, D.C.

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The Obama administration will sue Texas to block its voter ID law, the Justice Department said on Thursday.

The lawsuit will challenge the law under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or language. Texas moved swiftly to implement its voter ID law after the Supreme Court in June struck down a requirement that states with a history of racial discrimination seek permission from the federal government to change their voting laws.

Texas was subject to that process, known as “preclearance.”

“Today’s action marks another step forward in the Justice Department’s continuing effort to protect the voting rights of all eligible Americans,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement. “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.”

Despite the Court’s decision, the Obama administration has taken an aggressive stance on voting laws that it believes restricts minorities’ voting rights. The lawsuit against Texas is a major part of that approach.

“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,” Holder said.

In lieu of the preclearance requirement, Holder said last month that he would ask a court to force Texas to get prior approval to change its election laws.

There has been speculation that the Justice Department could take legal action against North Carolina, which recently enacted new voting ID requirements and cut down early voting days.

Texas Republican officials have claimed the voter ID law is needed to prevent in-person voter fraud. But civil rights groups have pointed out that there are very few examples of that type of fraud, and said that the laws are used to prevent minorities from casting ballots.

The lawsuit will ask the court to block implementation of the law, alleging that it “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.”

Republicans accused the Obama administration of a political ploy to turn deep-red Texas into a competitive state for Democrats.

“Facts mean little to a politicized Justice Department bent on inserting itself into the sovereign affairs of Texas and a lame-duck Administration trying to turn our state blue," Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said in a statement. "We deserve the freedom to make our own laws and we deserve not to be insulted by a Justice Department committed to scoring cheap political points."

The Justice Department also announced that it is joining an existing lawsuit against Texas’ 2011 redistricting plan, which argues that black and Hispanic voters are underrepresented under new congressional maps.

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