Minorities and the poor, the appeals court said, were less likely to possess the type of ID required by the law, and the state's "lackluster" education campaign did little to prepare voters for the changes.
The case is Veasey v Abbott, 2:13-193, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas (Corpus Christi).
"It's not going away", state Rep. Rafael Anchia, a Dallas Democrat, said ahead of a Tuesday hearing on the challenge to the law enacted in 2011 with the support of the state's Republican leadership. The DOJ under the Obama administration viewed the rule as draconian to the point that it unconstitutionally violated safeguards of the Voting Rights Act.
As Talking Points Memo notes, for the past six years, the DOJ has sided with citizens and civil rights groups fighting against the stringent voter-ID law, which required voters to show one of seven approved forms of identification in order to cast their ballot.
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Although the Department of Justice, now led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has yet to issue a formal court filing about its change in position, this is not the only change the adminstration has made on the voter ID argument.
Speculation began that DOJ might reverse its long-held position in the case only hours after President Donald Trump was inaugurated.
The Justice Department joined Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton last week in seeking a delay in the case until summer.
Then, shortly after Trump was inaugurated, Thomas Wheeler was appointed acting head of the DOJ's civil-rights division. Wheeler is a strong proponent of voter ID laws and served as counsel to Vice President Mike Pence when Pence was the governor of Indiana. The Huffington Post reported Wheeler personally offered advice to Texas lawmakers while Texas' law was being crafted. Those who oppose the law believe that it discriminates against minority voters with strict identification provisions.
The DOJ had previously argued exactly that. Last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit found the law had a discriminatory impact, but kicked the question of whether it was purposefully discriminatory back down to the lower court. In a statement, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that there would be "no barrier to our review" while the case continues through the courts. "Thus, there is no reason for the Court or the parties to devote additional time and resources to arguing the discriminatory goal claim on the current briefing and record now, before the Texas Legislature has had a chance to act on the new proposed legislation". For one, there may be no other state where Republicans have more to lose from a sharp uptick in voter participation among nonwhite voters: If Texas's Hispanic citizens turned out at the same rate as its non-Hispanic whites, it would (almost certainly) be a swing state by now.