DOJ Reverses Course on Texas Voter ID Law Challenge

By Kenrya Rankin Feb 27, 2017

In 2011, Texas lawmakers signed Senate Bill 14—and civil and voting rights groups immediately filed suit, alleging that the strict voter ID law was discriminatory. The Department of Justice (DOJ) joined the fight against the law, which the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals eventually found to indeed be intentionally discriminatory against Black and Latinx voters.

But today (February 27), the DOJ informed voting rights advocates that it will no longer support their challenge of the law. Danielle Lang, deputy director of voting rights at the Campaign Legal Center, told Talking Points Memo (TPM) that the change can only be attributed to the change in the federal leadership.

“This signals to voters that they will not be protected under this administration,” Lang said. “There have been six years of litigation and no change in the facts. We have already had a nine-day trial and presented thousands of pages of documents demonstrating that the picking and choosing of what IDs count was entirely discriminatory and would fall more harshly on minority voters. So for the DOJ to come in and drop those claims just because of a change of administration is outrageous.”

The change comes one day before a federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas is set to hear the latest arguments regarding the law, and one month after the DOJ requested a delay of the hearing. DOJ attorneys are expected to appear before Judge Nelva Gonzales tomorrow to formally dismiss the agency’s previous claim that Texas legislators created the law with the intent to suppress the voices of voters of color.

Visit The Texas Tribune for a full timeline of the case.