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Justice Files Voter Discrimination Suit Against Texas

Thu, August 22, 2013 10:14pm

Story by Scott Neuman


Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said Attorney General Eric Holder was "wrong to mess with Texas."

The Justice Department has filed suit against Texas under the Voting Rights Act, claiming that the state requirement for voter identification discriminates against minorities.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, alleges that the state's 2011 voter ID law was intended to be discriminatory. It alleges that poor black and Latino voters — many of whom don't drive — might be required to travel considerable distances to a driver's license office in order to acquire voter identification.

The suit cites Texas' history of voter discrimination and notes that only three forms of voter identification are acceptable under state law — a driver's license, personal ID card or an election identification certificate (EIC) — all issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety, which runs the state's driver's license branches.

Many Texas counties do not have driver's license offices "[requiring] some voters to travel approximately 200 miles round trip in order to obtain an EIC." Additionally, the suit says, many of those offices don't have weekend hours, so "some voters are required to take hours of time out of a workday to obtain an EIC."

As NPR's Carrie Johnson reports, Texas officials have denounced the Obama administration and Attorney General Eric Holder for filing the suit:

"Eric Holder is wrong to mess with Texas," the state's attorney general, Greg Abbott, said. "He is clearly joining in with the Obama administration to use the Voting Rights Act for pure political purposes."

In June, the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act that requires states with a history of voter discrimination to submit to scrutiny from the Justice Department before changing election laws. Texas is one of nine Southern states that had been covered by the provision.

Last month in a speech before the National Urban League, Holder said that despite the Supreme Court ruling, he planned to ask the court to hold Texas to account on other provisions in the VRA.

Holder has said that the high court's ruling doesn't mean it's "open season on voter suppression."

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