Back in June, the Supreme Court struck down a big part of the Voting Rights Act as unconstitutional, ruling that Congress needs to identify places where racial discrimination at the voting booth is so endemic that it requires federal intervention to override a state’s sovereignty in conducting elections. The 1965 law originally required that states with a history of discrimination apply for DOJ permission or court approval before altering their voting laws, but the Justices threw out those 50-year-old definitions and essentially freed Texas from federal court supervision — and it didn’t take long for Attorney General Eric Holder to declare that he had no intention of abiding by the historical checks-and-balances norm supplied by the Supreme Court.
Now, the follow-through; here’s the DOJ statement:
The Department of Justice announced today that it will file a new lawsuit against the State of Texas, the Texas Secretary of State, and the Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety over the State’s strict voter photo identification law (SB 14). The United States’ complaint seeks a declaration that SB 14 violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, as well as the voting guarantees of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.
Separately, the Department is filing a motion to intervene as a party and a complaint in intervention against the State of Texas and the Texas Secretary of State in the ongoing case of Perez v. Perry (W.D. Tex.), which concerns the state’s redistricting laws. The United States had already filed a statement of interest in this case last month. Today’s action represents a new step by the Department in this case that will allow the United States to formally present evidence about the purpose and effect of the Texas redistricting plans.
“Today’s action marks another step forward in the Justice Department’s continuing effort to protect the voting rights of all eligible Americans,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “We will not allow the Supreme Court’s recent decision to be interpreted as open season for states to pursue measures that suppress voting rights. The Department will take action against jurisdictions that attempt to hinder access to the ballot box, no matter where it occurs. We will keep fighting aggressively to prevent voter disenfranchisement. We are determined to use all available authorities, including remaining sections of the Voting Rights Act, to guard against discrimination and, where appropriate, to ask federal courts to require preclearance of new voting changes. This represents the Department’s latest action to protect voting rights, but it will not be our last.”
This whole rumpus originally got started, of course, because Texas wanted to change its election laws and require identification to vote, i.e., institute voter-ID laws — or, as progressives deem this simple and logical policy, The Most Obviously Racist and Discriminatory Idea of the Modern Age. As Charles Krauthammer put it a few weeks ago, “I think he’s got a very weak case.” More details from SCOTUSblog here.