Signaling an aggressive tone in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s weakening of voting laws, the Justice Department said Thursday that it will become a plaintiff in two lawsuits against the state of Texas in voting-related cases.
The department is suing the state over the new Texas voter identification law and in a case over the state’s redistricting laws.
Attorney General Eric Holder said that the Justice Department represents an effort to protect the voting rights of all Americans.
“Today’s action marks another step forward in the Justice Department’s continuing effort to protect the voting rights of all eligible Americans,” Holder said in a statement. “This represents the department’s latest action to protect voting rights, but it will not be our last.”
In June, the United States Supreme Court struck down a key provision in the Voting Rights Act of 1965, requiring certain states and municipalities to obtain clearance from the Justice Department before making changes in voting laws.
That decision was criticized by a number of civil rights organizations and by President Obama. The Justice Department’s move to get involved in the Texas cases indicates that the administration is following up on its commitment to become more involved in cases that it sees as restricting the voting rights of some Americans, particularly African-American and Latino voters.
“We will not allow the Supreme Court’s recent decision to be interpreted as open season for states to pursue measures that suppress voting rights,” Holder said. “The department will take action against jurisdictions that attempt to hinder access to the ballot box, no matter where it occurs. We will keep fighting aggressively to prevent voter disenfranchisement.”
The Justice Department will argue that the voter identification law was enacted with the goal of restricting certain Texans from voting because of their race or ethnicity.
In the redistricting case, the Justice Department is expected to argue that the state’s redrawn districts had discriminatory effects. That follows the ruling of a federal court in Washington that found that Texas did not meet its burden of proving that its 2011 redistricting plans and its 2011 voter identification law were not discriminatory.
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