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Justice Department Changes Position on Texas' Discriminatory Voter ID Law

28 February 2017

The 2011 law required that voters present one of seven forms of government identification in order to cast a ballot.

"There have been six years of litigation and no change in the facts", Lang told TPM.

Her bill would add options for Texans who say they can not "reasonably" obtain one of seven forms of ID now required at the polls, similar to court-ordered rules temporarily in place for last November's election.

Deemed one of the nation's strictest voter ID laws, the Texas measure could have barred some 600,000 residents from voting in the general election had the appeals court not blocked it, voting rights advocates estimate.

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.

"Texans are one step closer to having common-sense voter protection that has been demanded for years", said Christian Adams, who heads the conservative Public Interest Legal Foundation. This part required certain states, including Texas, to get approval from the Justice Department before changing voting laws-meaning that Texas could now implement a voter ID law without the federal government interfering.

"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.

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On his first day in office, hours after his inauguration, President Donald Trump made clear that he planned to switch sides on the voter-ID case when he asked the court for a 30-day delay in the blockbuster Texas case.

Under the Obama administration, the Justice Department joined the plaintiffs in arguing that the Texas law should be struck down.

Now the nonprofits are left to fend for themselves in court, as Sessions, a vocal proponent of voter ID laws, and his DOJ support Texas officials. But Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has defended the law as necessary to prevent voter fraud.

The case is Veasey v Abbott, 2:13-193, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas (Corpus Christi).

The DOJ had previously argued exactly that. The justices said they will not review a lower court ruling that held the law was discriminatory. "Private plaintiffs will continue to pursue justice in this matter", she declared.

In November, under Obama, the Justice Department argued that "a wealth of evidence" suggests that lawmakers consciously discriminated, including the state's lengthy history of discrimination in elections and a shift in demographics that could threaten current officeholders. A 2013 Supreme Court ruling sprung Texas and other states with a history of discrimination from that list. They point to a provision in the law that allows Texas voters to use their hunting licenses as identification, but not student identification cards.