Justice sues Texas over voter ID law

The Justice Department will file a lawsuit against Texas on Thursday, arguing that the state’s voter ID law violates the Voting Rights Act.

Attorney General Eric Holder vowed to fight state voting laws that the DOJ views as unfair or in violation of federal law, despite a recent Supreme Court decision striking down a key part of the Voting Rights Act (VRA).

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“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,” Holder said in a statement.

“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.”

Holder had promised to file the lawsuit one month after the Supreme Court decision came down in June. It will be filed against the state of Texas, the Texas secretary of State, and the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, according to a DOJ release.

The DOJ argues that Texas’s photo ID law — SB 14 — is unconstitutional and violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The department says Texas’s voter ID law “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 Texas law requires voters to produce one of the following before casting a ballot: a driver's license, a personal ID card, a military ID card, a citizenship certificate with a photograph, a U.S. passport or a license to carry a concealed handgun.

Opponents of the law argue that it unfairly discriminates against minority voters who might not have a photo ID and might not able to obtain one easily.

Many Republicans, especially the Texas delegation, have balked at the possibility of the DOJ’s lawsuit against Texas.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), the former chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, blasted the DOJ's decision to move against Texas.

The congressman said he talked with Holder and asked him to withdraw the lawsuit, arguing Congress should be the one to resolve discrepancies within the Voting Rights Act.

“I regret that the Department of Justice announced its intent to file a lawsuit against Texas’ Voter ID law citing Section 2 to the Voting Rights Act," said Sensenbrenner in a statement. "Voter ID laws are an essential element in protecting the integrity of our electoral process and do not have a discriminatory intent or effect.

“I spoke with Attorney General Holder today and requested that he withdraw his Section 2 lawsuit until there can be a legislative fix of the Voting Rights Act. The lawsuit would make it much more difficult to pass a bipartisan fix to restore the heart of the VRA that the Supreme Court struck down earlier this year,” Sensenbrenne.

DOJ's lawsuit demands that the court prohibit Texas from enforcing the voter ID law. If the DOJ’s request is granted, it would subject Texas to a new pre-clearance requirement, the DOJ stated.

Justice also announced plans on Thursday to file a motion to intervene in the Perez v. Perry redistricting case, which will allow the government to present evidence about “the purpose and effect of the Texas redistricting plans,” according to the DOJ.

DOJ is arguing that Texas’s 2011 redistricting was done “with the purpose of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group.”

The department contends that the redistricting plan is also unconstitutional and violates Section 2 of the VRA.

— This story was updated at 5:13 p.m.

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