As was hinted might be the case late last month, the U.S. Department of Justice will no longer support the lawsuit filed by Dallas U.S. Representative Marc Veasey and several voting rights groups against the state of Texas’ voter ID law. In a filing made late Monday afternoon, attorneys for the Justice Department asked that the federal government’s claim that the law is racially discriminatory be dismissed. Instead, the brief argues, the Texas state legislature should be given a chance to modify law during its current legislative session, echoing the state of Texas’ argument.
Former President Barack Obama’s Justice Department filed a lawsuit challenging the law in 2013, winning a victory when a 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled before the 2016 presidential election that the law was discriminatory in practice, if not intent. A temporary fix was implemented, allowing those without one of the seven government-issued photo IDs considered acceptable voter identification to sign an affidavit attesting to the reason they didn’t have ID in order to get a ballot. The law was then sent back to the U.S. District court to reevaluate whether the intent of the law was racial discrimination.
The Donald Trump Justice Department filed a motion on Inauguration Day asking that a scheduled hearing in the case be rescheduled for Feb. 28. Late last week Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos denied a further request for delay from the state and Justice Department lawyers.
J. Gerald Hebert, an attorney who represents multiple plaintiffs in the case, including Veasey, blasted the Department of Justice Monday afternoon.
"I am appalled and disgusted that D.O.J. would abandon their claims, that they have advocated for years, that Texas’ photo ID law was enacted with a racially discriminatory purpose," Hebert said in a statement. "The facts on which they based those claims have not changed one bit. The only facts that have changed are Trump’s election and Jeff Sessions’s appointment as Attorney General."
Despite the feds’ withdrawal, Hebert and the other plaintiffs in the case intend to continue fighting the law in federal court.