The state of Texas wants the discussions their Republican legislators had about passing a voter ID law to stay secret. Texas, which sued the federal government in an attempt to have their voter ID law approved, said in a court filing last month that “communications between members of the state legislature, communications between state legislators and their staff, and communications between state legislators and their constituents” should be protected by legislative privilege. The state also tried to prevent officials with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division from deposing legislators who supported the voter ID legislation known as SB 14.
The Justice Department is objecting to Texas’ voter ID law under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, a statute which requires states with a history of discrimination to have changes to their voting laws precleared by federal officials. Texas is arguing they shouldn’t have to turn over material about their deliberations even though the state has the burden of proving the law doesn’t have a discriminatory purpose or effect.
“These discovery requests represent an unwarranted federal intrusion into the operations of the Texas Legislature, and threaten to push section 5’s already-questionable incursions on state prerogatives past the constitutional breaking point,” Texas argued. DOJ countered last week that testimony of legislators and staff “typically provides crucial evidence bearing on the central findings that courts must make in Section 5 declaratory judgment cases.”