The Justice Department is ending its involvement in the federal lawsuit challenging Texas’s Voter ID law. Attorneys for the department have filed paperwork saying the federal government will no longer support plaintiffs charging that Texas intended to discriminate against minority voters when the state passed its voter ID law in 2011.
The case is set to return to federal court Tuesday.
“This is a position the Department of Justice has taken, and taken seriously, for many years,” says Danielle Lang of the Campaign Legal Center in Washington, D.C., representing the plaintiffs. “It’s extraordinarily disappointing to see them make this 180 [degree turn].”
The Justice Department joined the lawsuit in 2013, under the Obama Administration and then-Attorney General Eric Holder.
Teddy Rave teaches election law at the University of Houston Law Center. He says the Justice Department’s move is likely to have little effect on the Texas suit, as the private plaintiffs will continue to fight the case.
“I think the bigger story here is that this gives an indication of the position the U.S. Justice Department [under the Trump Administration] is likely to take in future voting rights cases and in other voting rights cases pending around the country,” Rave says.
Last week, the Justice Department joined with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, asking U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos to delay the latest court hearing until summer. The request was designed, in part, to give the Texas Legislature time to work on a new voter ID law. Judge Ramos denied the request.
Houston Public Media reached out to Paxton’s office for its reaction to the Justice Department’s decision, but the office declined to comment.