But state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus that is a plaintiff in the redistricting case, said federal intervention was necessary to protect minority rights.
“Federal courts have ruled time and again that government officials in Texas are systematically making it harder for minorities to vote,” he said in a statement. “I am confident that the overwhelming evidence demonstrating intentional discrimination in Texas, when presented in court, will compel state officials to remove barriers to voting that will disenfranchise far too many of our citizens.”
In the voter ID lawsuit, the U.S. government will contend that Texas adopted a voter identification law with the purpose of denying or restricting voters’ rights based on race, color or membership in a language minority group. The law requires voters to produce a state-issued ID before casting a ballot, while before voters could use their registration cards.
Intervening in the redistricting case would enable the federal government to seek a declaration that Texas’s 2011 redistricting plans for the U.S. Congress and the Texas State House of Representatives were adopted to deny or restrict the right to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group.
Since a federal court found that Texas intentionally discriminated against minorities with its 2011 redistricting plans and voter identification law, state lawmakers have withdrawn their original maps and replaced them with a plan adopted by a federal court as a stop-gap measure. But Abbott has said the voter ID law is in effect.
The separate provision of the Voting Rights Act that Holder is invoking may be a difficult tool for the Obama administration to use. A handful of jurisdictions have been subjected to advance approval of election changes through this provision, but a court first must find that a state or local government engaged in intentional discrimination under the 14th or 15th amendments, or the jurisdiction has to admit to discrimination. Unlike other parts of the voting law, the discriminatory effect of a law is not enough to trigger the provision.
The NAACP, one of the plaintiffs in the redistricting case, said it will intervene in the voter ID case in support of the Justice Department.
“Texas has a deeply disturbing history of brazenly suppressing the votes and voting strength of Black and Latino voters,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. “A Texas voter is more likely to be struck by lightning than to see someone attempt to vote fraudulently at the polls.”