The differences between the Trump and Obama administrations’ approaches to voting rights just became a little visibly starker.
On Wednesday, President Donald Trump’s Department of Justice filed a brief in pending voter ID litigation, arguing that a law passed by the Texas Legislature this past session and signed by Gov. Greg Abbott—S.B. 5—eliminated any biases against minorities going to the polls, which were previously identified by the courts, in the state’s voter identification rules.
“As amended by S.B. 5, Texas’s voter ID law both guarantees to Texas voters the opportunity to cast an in-person ballot and protects the integrity of Texas’s elections. S.B. 5 thus removes any ‘discriminatory effect’ or intent the Court found in [the previous 2011 voter ID law] S.B. 14 and advances Texas’s legitimate ‘policy objectives’ in adopting a voter ID law,” the DOJ’s brief in Veasey v. Texas states.
The DOJ filed its brief in that case at the same time presiding U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos considers if any further court actions are necessary after the passage of SB-5.
That new law provided reforms to the 2011 Texas voter ID law, which was known as the nation’s most stringent. Texas voter ID laws have been the subject of the long-running case. Ramos, appointed by Obama, was affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for Fifth Circuit, when the appellate court found that the 2011 voter ID law unfairly disadvantaged large numbers of Latino and black voters.
Private civil rights lawyers have said previously that regardless of what position the Trump administration adopted they would continue to pursue a final ruling that the Legislature intentionally discriminated when it passed the voter ID laws. They also are seeking additional reforms beyond those in S.B. 5.
“This case is continuing with or without DOJ,” Ezra Rosenberg of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, who argued for private plaintiffs, told the Texas Lawyer earlier.
“DOJ has always been part of the picture but never the whole picture,” said Nina Perales, vice president of litigation for the San Antonio-based Latino civil rights organization Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
Miriam Rozen covers the business of law with a focus on law firm-client relationships. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @MiriamRozen.