Eric Holder Files Lawsuit To Block Texas Voting Law

The Justice Department announced Thursday that it plans to sue Texas over the state’s voter ID laws, arguing that the requirements are discriminatory and violate the Voting Rights Act.

Of course, the Supreme Court’s recent gutting of the Voting Rights Act made it a lot harder for the federal government to prosecute voter disenfranchisement in the states, but Attorney General Eric Holder is hoping to use two remaining sections of the VRA to knock down the Texas law regardless.

A panel of federal judges already blocked SB14, which requires Texans to obtain a state-issued photo ID in order to vote, after determining that it would place an unfair burden on poor and minority voters. However, that ruling was binding only under Section 4 of the VRA. So when the Supreme Court struck down Section 4, Texas (and a bunch of other states) suddenly had the authority to enact whatever voting laws they so desired. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott immediately enacted the previously-blocked voter ID law.

But there are two other sections of the VRA that were left intact, and the DOJ is attempting to use both to quash the Texas law. Section 2 flatly prohibits voting laws that discriminate based on race. Furthermore, Section 3 says that if a judge determines that a state enacted a voting law with the intent to discriminate, they can ban that state from making any changes to its voting laws sans federal approval for a period of time.

Here’s what it boils down to, then: The DOJ must convince a federal judge that SB14 purposefully and intentionally discriminates against minorities. Before Section 4 of the VRA was struck down, the burden of proof would have been on Texas to prove that its laws weren’t discriminatory. The state failed to provide that proof last year, which is why the initial panel of judges struck down the law.

Now, it’s on the federal government to prove intentional discrimination — a much heavier lift.