Texas is preparing for a legal showdown next month in federal court over a new voter photo ID law passed by the Legislature but blocked by the Justice Department which cited discrimination against minority voters. “We objected to a photo ID requirement in Texas because it would have had a disproportionate impact on Hispanic voters,” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told a recent conference of black clergy. Despite legal maneuvering by Texas and Justice Department lawyers, a three-judge U.S. District Court panel has cleared the docket for a July 9 trial. And it remains highly questionable whether the new law could be implemented in Texas by the November general election.
Texas joins South Carolina as states that have filed lawsuits challenging the Justice Department’s rejection of voter ID laws. The states claim the Obama administration is overreaching in its opposition to voter ID laws, which have been found to be constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. “Texas should not be treated differently and must have the same authority as other states to protect the integrity of our elections,” said Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.
But minority rights groups have sided with the Justice Department, saying the new Texas voter ID law that requires a valid photo is aimed at suppressing balloting by African-Americans, Latinos and other minorities. Holder said a similar law in South Carolina was blocked by the Justice Department because it would have placed an unfair burden on non-white voters. In each case, the Justice Department blocked the new voter photo ID laws by not granting a clearance under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, first passed in 1965 and requiring mostly southern states with a historical pattern of discrimination to “pre-clear” changes in voting laws or political lines.