The Associated Press is reporting that the Trump Administration will be ending the federal government’s opposition to Texas’ photo voter identification law.
An attorney for a plaintiff organization said that the Trump administration told her that the federal government has no plan to challenge the Texas voter photo ID law, reported the AP. A representative of the Campaign Legal Center said on Monday that the plaintiffs challenging the voting law were told by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) that it will be filing legal documents to drop its opposition to the law. Danielle Lang of the Washington-based group was reported to call the move an “extraordinary disappointment.”
Texas Governor Greg Abbott took to Twitter to celebrate the decision.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) February 27, 2017
The Public Interest Legal Foundation, a longstanding proponent of voter ID laws hailed the Trump DOJ’s decision in a statement released Monday.
“Since the Obama Administration’s initial filing, the federal government’s position has only grown weaker,” J. Christian Adams said. “We are seeing early reminders of what a Justice Department looks like when it drops the ideological pet projects and follows the law.”
Breitbart Texas reported on January 22 that a federal magistrate delayed a hearing in the Texas voter ID case so that the Trump Administration would have time to reassess the federal administration’s decision. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a motion for continuance on January 20 asking the court to continue a hearing that had been set for January 24. The lawyers for the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division asked the judge to postpone the hearing until February 24 or thereafter.
As reported by Breitbart Texas in October 2014, U.S. District Court Judge Nelva Gonzalez Ramos sitting in Corpus Christi, Texas, issued a permanent injunction requiring Texas to return to enforcing the in-person voter identification requirements that existed before Senate Bill 14 was initially enforced in 2013.
The Obama appointee had held that the Texas photo voter ID law violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965 because it: had an impermissible discriminatory effect, including deliberate discrimination against blacks and Hispanics; violated the Equal Protection Clause; and unconstitutionally offended voting rights guaranteed under the Fifteenth Amendment. She also ruled that the voter ID law was an unconstitutional poll tax prohibited by the Twenty-Fourth Amendment because the law provided for a fee for issuing copies of birth certificates or other information needed to obtain an acceptable ID.
Senate Bill 14 was signed into law in 2011 by then-Governor Rick Perry.
In July 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit sitting en banc found that Texas’ voter ID law had a discriminatory effect under the Voting Rights Act but reversed the district court’s finding of discriminatory intent, as reported by Breitbart Texas.
The 9-6 ruling held that the law did not constitute a poll tax but ruled that the lower court must put an “interim remedy” in place to mitigate the “discriminatory effects” in time for the 2016 Election. The Fifth Circuit warned that the district judge should “ensure that any remedy acted ameliorates SB 14’s discriminatory effect while respecting the Legislature’s stated objective to safeguard the integrity of elections by requiring more secure forms of voter identification.” The appellate court remanded the case to the district court to later determine if the voter ID provisions were written to be intentionally discriminatory.
The dissents to that opinion included scathing retorts to the ruling. There were 100 pages of dissenting opinions in all. Judge Edith Jones, a Reagan nominated judge wrote a dissent which was joined by four judges. She wrote, “Requiring a voter to verify her identity with a photo ID at the polling place is a reasonable requirement widely supported by Texans of all races and members of the public belonging to both political parties.”
The seven acceptable forms of photo ID under the law include the following: a Texas driver’s license; free Texas election identification card (EIC); Texas personal identification card; Texas license to carry a concealed handgun; U.S. military identification card; U.S. citizenship certificate; and a U.S. passport.
This article has been updated to reflect additional information.