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Fate Of Texas Voter ID Law May Hinge On Incoming Trump Administration

Civil rights groups fighting the law in court could soon find themselves doing so without the aid of the Justice Department. Senator Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump’s nominee for attorney general, is a supporter of such laws.




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The Obama Administration is asking a federal judge to rule Texas legislators deliberately discriminated against African-American and Latino voters. At issue is the state's voter ID law, passed in 2011. The fate of the lawsuit is up in the air, as President Obama prepares to leave office.

The Texas case is one of several federal suits challenging state voter ID laws. The Justice Department has aggressively challenged such laws under President Obama.

"The future of this case and others is really the million-dollar question," says Josh Blackman, who teaches constitutional law at the South Texas College of Law Houston. "Senator Jeff Sessions [of Alabama], who will become likely the next attorney general, has been very supportive of voter ID laws and these different measures to protect voter security."

So can the incoming Trump Administration scuttle the Texas case and others like it? Blackman says, not so fast.

"These cases are not only brought by the Justice Department," he says. "There are also various civil rights groups. So even if a Trump Administration puts a hold on these cases and settles them, the NAACP and other similar groups can continue the litigation."

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton says he plans to fight the federal suit all the way to the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the Texas Legislature is already planning to take up a new voter ID bill, one that might better withstand a court challenge. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick has made passing such a bill one of his top priorities for the next legislative session.

Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew Schneider is the senior reporter for politics and government at Houston Public Media, NPR's affiliate station in Houston, Texas. In this capacity, he heads the station's coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments...

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