Ahead of a crucial hearing in federal district court tomorrow, the Trump administration is reversing the Obama administration’s opposition to Texas’s strict voter-ID law, withdrawing the federal government’s claim that the law intentionally discriminates against black and Latino voters.
According to a new brief, the federal government is withdrawing its intentional-discrimination claim because Texas legislators are currently drafting a revised voter-ID law to allow those without strict forms of photo ID to cast a ballot if they have a “reasonable impediment” to obtaining one. “The United States has determined that, rather than continuing to litigate the purpose claim on an evolving record, it should give full effect to the Fifth Circuit’s directives by withdrawing that claim and allowing the Texas Legislature the opportunity to rectify any alleged infirmities with its voter identification law,” says the brief signed by John M. Gore, deputy assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division. (The DOJ’s acting head of the Civil Rights Division, Thomas Wheeler, had to recuse himself because he advised Texas lawmakers during passage of the original bill.)
Texas’s voter-ID law—which allows voters to cast a ballot with a handgun permit but not a student ID—has already been blocked three times by federal courts.
A federal district court in DC first blocked the law in August 2012. But after the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in June 2013, ruling that states with a long history of discrimination no longer had to approve their voting changes with the federal government, Texas’s law immediately went into effect.
Thousands were disenfranchised as a result. I’ve been telling their stories for years. Elizabeth Gholar was born in rural southwestern Louisiana in 1938, in the small town of Jennings, the county seat of Jefferson Davis Parish. After growing up in the Jim Crow South, she felt voting was always important.
In 2013, after retiring as a school cook, she moved to Texas to live with her daughter in Austin. She had a driver’s license and birth certificate from Louisiana, but ran into problems when she tried to get a driver’s license in Texas, which she needed to vote. She was told that the name on her birth certificate, which had been incorrectly filled out by the midwife who had delivered her at home and listed her mother’s maiden name, had to match her current name.