Published: Tue, February 28, 2017
USA | By Cassandra Hanson

Justice Department withdraws Obama-era challenge to Texas voter ID law

The law required voters to present one of seven accepted identification forms, including a driver's license or concealed handgun license. Though the judge said she found no "smoking guns" that revealed a racist intention behind the law, she found it was passed with discriminatory intent.

The Justice Department has revoked a brief filed in federal district court opposing a Texas law requiring voters to show identification at the polls.

Danielle Lang, the Campaign Legal Center's deputy director of voting rights, said that the Justice Department informed her group and the other groups suing Texas - including the Brennan Center for Justice, the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the NAACP, and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund - of the government's change in position Monday morning.

Anyhow, Texas's law has been tied up in the courts for six years now.

"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.

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"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 goal claim if Texas enacts new voter ID legislation", the Texas and DOJ attorneys wrote in a joint motion.

A hearing in the case was scheduled for Tuesday in federal court in Texas. DOJ will ask U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos to dismiss their claim that Texas acted with discriminatory intent during a hearing Tuesday. The state of Texas wanted a delay on that for the legislature to have an opportunity to amend the law in order to address the court's concerns, but the Obama DoJ had opposed that, but the Trump DoJ has already concurred in a filing prior to its shift today.

In July 2016, the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans - widely considered the most conservative appeals court in the country - upheld Ramos' ruling that the law had a discriminatory impact on minorities.

The DOJ had previously argued exactly that. Prior to 2013, when the U.S. Supreme Court gutted a key provision of the landmark Voting Rights Act, states with a "history of discrimination" (like Texas and basically the entire south) were required to obtain federal approval before fiddling with their states' voting or elections laws. In August, when the state originally sought to postpone arguments regarding intent until the legislature had time to come up with a solution, Lang said the DOJ fought back, arguing it was in the interest of justice to resolve the matter as quickly as possible. That claim was made by the Obama administration as part of a broader legal challenge to the law, which is among the strictest in the nation. In a statement, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that there would be "no barrier to our review" while the case continues through the courts.

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