When the Supreme Court weakened the Voting Rights Act last year, it allowed Texas to implement what is perhaps the nation’s strictest photo ID law. But according to the state’s Republicans, the federal government still has too much influence on how it runs elections. The Texas GOP platform, released Thursday, calls for the repeal of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965, the most successful civil-rights law in the nation’s history. It also supports scrapping the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, which has helped millions register to vote. And it advocates making voters re-register every four years, among other restrictive policies. In sum, the party wants to get the federal government out of the business of overseeing state elections—returning voting law to where it was before the civil rights movement. “We urge that the Voter [sic] Rights Act of 1965, codified and updated in 1973, be repealed and not reauthorized,” the platform says.
These aren’t new positions—the platform’s section on voting issues is largely unchanged from 2012. But circumstances have changed. Last year, the Supreme Court badly weakened the VRA by invalidating the provision that required certain states with a history of discrimination, including Texas, to get federal approval before making changes to their voting systems. That allowed Texas to put into effect its strict voter ID law, which had been blocked by a court under the VRA.
The Justice Department is continuing to challenge Texas’s voter ID law under a different provision of the VRA that still exists, and which prohibits racial discrimination in voting.
Without the VRA, the only bar on racial discrimination in voting would be the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution. These weren’t enough to stop a century of Jim Crow, which used tactics like literacy tests to get around the prohibition on explicitly denying the right to vote on account of race. It was only thanks to the VRA, which took a broader view of what constitutes racial discrimination in voting, that the right to vote for all Americans was meaningfully assured.