Now comes the far-flung fallout from a Supreme Court decision in June blowing up a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. A federal lawsuit filed Thursday against a Texas voter identification law seems certain to be followed by a similar suit against one in North Carolina. Other states, too, could face federal legal challenges over their actions in the wake of the high court’s decision. Congress, if it’s up to the task, could also get messy trying to partially restore the guts of the landmark 1965 law. The fights to come will span many fronts, including several of the 33 states that have passed voter identification laws. The separate conflicts, moreover, will inevitably cross-pollinate. One key lawmaker, tellingly, believes the federal action in Texas will “make it much more difficult” to get Voting Rights Act revisions through an already divided Congress. And, as in any global conflict, strategic thinking could pay dividends.
“I’m sure the Department of Justice will pick its spots carefully,” election law expert Daniel P. Tokaji, a professor at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law, said in an interview Friday. “These aren’t easy cases.”
Beyond the legal debate, however, the controversy has political ramifications, as well.
In the Justice Department’s 15-page lawsuit targeting the Texas voter ID law, signed by Houston-based Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel D. Hu, the department deployed arguments potentially applicable against other states, as well. The Texas law, Hu wrote, would “deny equal opportunities for Hispanic and African-American voters to participate in the political process, resulting in a denial of the right to vote.”