File Photo: Robert Daemmrich Photography Inc/Corbis via Getty Images
The Trump Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a pleading Wednesday saying the judge should take no more action in the voter ID lawsuit against Texas because the State’s new law “eradicates any discriminatory effect or intent” of the prior law. Moreover, the new law is “constitutionally and legally valid.”
Texas officials have maintained that requiring photo identification provides for election integrity. Referring to the November 2016 election, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said in August 2016 that he feared those without proper identification “are going to vote ten times.” He added, “You don’t have to have voter ID to now go in and vote, and it’s a little bit scary.”
The Obama Administration challenged the Lone Star State’s 2011 voter ID law (Senate Bill 14) saying it was “intentionally discriminatory.” Then-Governor Rick Perry signed the bill.
Just before President Trump was to take office this year, a federal magistrate delayed a hearing in the case so the Trump Administration could have time to reassess the federal government’s decision about litigating the matter.
In February, the Trump Administration informed an attorney for the Campaign Legal Center that the administration had no plan to challenge the Texas voter photo ID law. The DOJ filed a pleading asking the court to dismiss the claim of intentional voter discrimination pursued by the Obama Administration against Texas; thus, more closely aligning with the Fifth Circuit’s prior finding that the law only carried a discriminatory “effect.” Officials with the D.C.-based group called the decision an “extraordinary disappointment.”
Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed the new voter ID law, Senate Bill 5 (SB 5), on June 1 of this year. SB 5 provides that voters who do not have and cannot reasonably obtain a proper photo ID may execute a reasonable impediment declaration and cast a ballot. Texas lawmakers incorporated into SB 5 the changes ordered by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
The deputy assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division, John M. Gore, and lawyers for the Voting Section of that division, filed its pleading on Wednesday stating, “The Court should vacate the agreed interim remedy as of the January 1, 2018, effective date for S.B. 5 and should decline to enter an injunction, declaratory judgement, or retention of jurisdiction to review future legislation.”
The DOJ urges, “As amended by S.B. 5, Texas’s voter ID law both guarantees to Texas voters the opportunity to cast an in-person ballot and protects the integrity of Texas’s elections.” The law “thus removes any ‘discriminatory effect’ or intent the Court found in S.B. 14 and advances Texas’ legitimate ‘policy objectives’ in adopting a voter ID law.” The State has also committed to educating voters about the new voter ID requirements and will spend approximately $4 million doing so.
On Thursday after the DOJ filed a pleading saying the court should take no further action in the lawsuit, lawyers for those suing to set aside the Texas 2011 voter ID law were reported to say the DOJ of this Republican administration – “simply has no more credibility in this litigation.” Houston area lawyer Chad Dunn added:
For six years, the Department of Justice stood on the side of voters arguing that Texas’ unnecessary voter photo ID law was enacted with discriminatory intent, then after the new administration was sworn in, one of DOJ’s first acts was to back out of the case.” “Every court to rule on the subject found Texas’ law to be discriminatory and Supreme Court precedent, which binds us all, including DOJ, requires Texas to go back to the drawing board in a non-discriminatory process if it wishes to mess with the right to vote.”
The Public Interest Legal Foundation, a supporter of Texas’ voter ID law, praised the DOJ move via Twitter on Thursday, giving additional compliments to Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick for his making SB 5 a priority for the 2017 legislative session, as Breitbart Texas previously reported.
— PublicInterestLegal (@PILFoundation) July 6, 2017
The plaintiffs in the litigation include: the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC); the City of Dallas; consol plaintiffs Mexican American Legislative Caucus for the Texas House of Representatives and La Union Del Pueblo Entero, Inc.; the Texas State Conference of NAACP Branches; various individual plaintiffs; and intervenor-plaintiffs Texas Association of Hispanic County Judges and County Commissioners and Hidalgo County; and other intervening plaintiffs.