The Department of Justice (DOJ) is suing Texas over the state’s voter photo ID law, which requires citizens present a photo ID before voting.
The US Supreme Court earlier this summer struck down part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that had required Texas and certain other states to get “preclearance” before changing their voting laws. That decision, though, will not impact the DOJ’s decision, Attorney General Eric Holder said.
“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.
The Texas law requires free photo IDs be given to citizens who don’t have one. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 11 states have at least some form of photo ID law in place.
In 2009, the US Supreme Court found that photo ID laws were constitutional and a valid form of preventing voter fraud.
State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, a Democrat, said “government officials in Texas are systematically making it harder for minorities to vote.”
Holder, too, said discrimination was the motive.
“The Department will take action against jurisdictions that attempt to hinder access to the ballot box, no matter where it occurs,” he said. “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. This represents the Department’s latest action to protect voting rights, but it will not be our last.”
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Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said opponents are wrong in implying racism was the motive for the law.
“Just days after the US Department of Justice arrested a Texas woman for illegally voting five times in the same election, the Obama administration is suing to stop Texas’ commonsense voter ID law,” Abbott. “The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that voter ID laws do not suppress legal votes, but do help prevent illegal votes. Voter IDs have nothing to do with race and they are free to anyone who needs one.”
Texas Democratic Party Executive Director Will Hailer is supporting the lawsuit, saying the Justice Department’s action mean the federal agency will be on the “right side of history.”
Texas Gov. Rick Perry says the Justice Department was wrong.
“The filing of endless litigation in an effort to obstruct the will of the people of Texas is what we have come to expect from Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama,” Perry said. “We will continue to defend the integrity of our elections against this administration’s blatant disregard for the 10th Amendment.”
The Tenth Amendment says that “powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states.”
US Senator John Cornyn, a former Texas attorney general, said Texans “reject the notion that the federal government knows what’s best for us.”
“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,” Cornyn said.
Said Abbott, “Just two months ago the U.S. Supreme Court struck down federal preapproval of state election laws. The Court emphasized that the Tenth Amendment empowers states — not the federal government — to regulate elections. The Obama administration continues to ignore the Tenth Amendment and repeated Supreme Court decisions upholding states’ authority to enforce voter identification and redistricting laws.
“The Obama administration needs to move beyond the cynical politics of race and focus on the real issues affecting the daily lives of all Americans, regardless of their race.”