U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder
WASHINGTON (USA TODAY) -- The Obama administration is going to court Thursday to block Texas'
tough new voter ID law, implemented after the Supreme Court in June
struck down a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Justice Department lawsuit, to be filed in federal court, represents the
latest step in a legal as well as legislative battle between Republican
state lawmakers seeking to tighten up voting laws and Democratic
officials in Washington who favor more lenient access to the polls.
the same time, the department is joining a separate legal challenge to
Texas' congressional and legislative redistricting plans.
Supreme Court's ruling struck down the formula used by the Voting Rights
Act to determine which states and municipalities had to clear all
voting changes with the federal government. Since then, states from
Texas to North Carolina have moved to pass and implement new
The latest actions follow Attorney General Eric
Holder's warning last month that his department would use remaining
provisions of the Voting Rights Act to take action against states that
adopted discriminatory voting laws.
"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 Thursday. "We
will keep fighting aggressively to prevent voter disenfranchisement....
This represents the department's latest action to protect voting rights,
but it will not be our last."
The Texas law requires
government-issued photo identification before voting. Among the
permissible forms is a concealed handgun license; student IDs are not
About 20 states have photo-ID laws on the books or are in
the process of implementing them. Officials in those states argue the
laws are necessary to stop potential voter fraud. Opponents say they
discriminate against minorities, seniors, students and others less
likely to possess the required identification.
complaints charge that the Texas law is intended to deny or abridge the
voting rights of racial or ethnic minorities. It asks the court to place
Texas once again under the Voting Rights Act's preclearance
requirement. The Supreme Court's ruling effectively left no states or
municipalities under that requirement.
The Texas attorney
general's office had no immediate comment on the Justice Department's
lawsuit. But Sen. John Cornyn, a former state attorney general, accused
Holder of trying to score "cheap political points."
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," Cornyn said.
Holder's actions were hailed
by civil rights groups. "Texas has a deeply disturbing history of
brazenly suppressing the votes and voting strength of black and Latino
voters," said Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense and
Educational Fund. "The voter ID law in Texas is a solution in search of a
problem. A Texas voter is more likely to be struck by lightning than to
see someone attempt to vote fraudulently at the polls."