PEMA LEVY Mother Jones
APR. 3, 2017 5:20 PM
In a significant rebuke of the Trump administration Monday, a federal judge in Texas rejected the Department of Justice's request to halt a major voting rights case that had been filed during Obama administration.
The case in question dates back to 2013, when the Obama DOJ joined voting rights advocates, Democratic lawmakers, and a group of Texas residents in suing to block a draconian voter ID law in Texas. This coalition scored a major victory last year when a federal appeals court ruled that the law discriminated against minorities and needed to be softened. The Texas legislature is currently working on amending the law.
However, the appeals court left open a key question in the case: whether the discrimination was intentional. It sent the case back to federal district court for a determination on that issue. The question of intent is significant. The finding of a discriminatory effect necessitates altering the law. But if the court finds that Texas acted with a discriminatory intent, the judge could throw the law out entirely. What's more, if Texas is found to have engaged in intentional voting discrimination, a judge could require the state to seek federal approval for future changes to its voting laws. In arguing that Texas lawmakers indeed sought to discriminate against minorities, critics of the law pointed out that it allows voters to prove their identifies with concealed carry permits, which are disproportionately held by white people, but excludes IDs issued to state employees and state university students, which minorities are more likely to have.