On Monday, the Department of Justice announced that it would no longer pursue a controversial voter ID case championed by the Obama administration. The lawsuit started in 2011 when Texas issued a stricter voter ID law. Both the NAACP of Texas, the Brennan Center for Justice, and the Texas state House’s Mexican American Legislative Caucus filed to challenge the law, arguing it was inherently discriminatory toward minority voters. The Obama Department of Justice supported the challenge to the law. In 2014, a District Judge, Nelva Gonzales Ramos, agreed with the complainants and struck down the law. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals concurred with Ramos’ holding last year and remanded it back to him.
However, the Department of Justice, now headed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that it would argue in front of Judge Ramos that the United States will drop its claim that the voter ID law was crafted with discriminatory intent. In its motion for voluntary dismissal, the Department of Justice stated:
Accordingly, 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. Thus, out of due respect for the controlling opinion of the Fifth Circuit and for the comity necessary in our system of federalism, the United States has determined that it will not pursue its purpose claim at this time and respectfully moves for voluntary dismissal of that claim without prejudice.
Naturally, Talking Points Memo scorned the decision in its usual hyperbolic tone:
For the last six years, the Justice Department has sided with the citizens and civil rights groups fighting Texas’ voter ID law, which a federal judge at one point found to be intentionally discriminatory against black and Latino voters. But its position changed Monday when the department decided to drop its claim that Republican state lawmakers enacted the law to make it harder for minorities to vote.
“This signals to voters that they will not be protected under this administration,” said Danielle Lang, the deputy director of voting rights at the Campaign Legal Center, which is challenging Texas’ law in court.
The United States will drop its claim that the voter ID law was crafted with discriminatory intent.
However, this decision signals that both Attorney General Sessions and President Trump look to fight back against voter fraud, which many believe the administration is deliberately overstating. Nevertheless, voter fraud does exist and the NAACP announced earlier this year that it would combat any attempt by the administration to investigate it. This is a welcome development.