The Justice Department on Thursday announced that it is fighting back after the Supreme Court effectively invalidated part of the Voting Rights Act. In its first step, Justice signaled that it would support a lawsuit against Texas’s GOP-drawn redistricting plan and seek to get a federal judge to require the state to continue to obtain pre-clearance for any electoral changes — as it did before part of the VRA was struck down. Justice is also expect to sue to stop Texas’s new Voter ID law. The move is a significant one, for a few reasons. First, it signals that the Obama administration is not going to wait and cross its fingers hoping Congress will replace the VRA language that was struck down. The Supreme Court struck down the formula that determines which states and areas with a history of racial discrimination are required to gain pre-clearance for electoral changes — effectively rendering pre-clearance inoperable until a new formula is established. In its decision, the court noted that Congress can simply replace the formula with a new one.
Of course, anybody watching Washington these days knows that’s not going to happen any time soon. Such a formula would need to pass in the GOP-controlled House and overcome a filibuster in the Senate. And given that the American people are pretty evenly split on the Voting Rights Act, there’s very little impetus for action.
Using Texas as its first target, the Justice Department is effectively trying to determine which states can be made to require pre-clearance without the formula.
“No matter what happens with (Texas), it makes the chances of Congress passing a new coverage formula even less than they’ve been,” wrote Rick Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California Irvine.