DOJ Reverses Course on Texas Voter ID Law by Joining Texas in Calling for Delay in Hearing

Feb 23, 2017
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CLC Urges Court to Proceed with Hearing on SB 14 as scheduled on February 28

WASHINGTON – The Campaign Legal Center filed a motion today with our private plaintiffs, opposing Texas’ and the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) attempt to delay a court hearing on the state’s discriminatory voter ID law, SB 14, which is currently scheduled in U.S. District Court for Feb. 28. CLC is litigating the case, Veasey v. Abbott, on behalf of Texas voters. 

Texas and the United States have asked the Court to delay a hearing about Texas’s discriminatory purpose in enacting its law in the hopes that Texas will pass a new law that addresses the Fifth Circuit’s concerns. This is nothing more than an attempt by Texas to avoid court scrutiny of its discriminatory motives. 

The DOJ's sudden support of Texas’ delay tactics is a complete reversal of its past position in this case. When Texas made the same argument for delay to the Court last August, the DOJ strongly opposed. 

The DOJ stated then that “in the interest of justice,” the court should decide on the question of discriminatory purpose at the earliest opportunity. For years, the DOJ has argued that the evidence shows that Texas’ strict voter ID law was motivated by discriminatory intent. In November, it submitted over a hundred pages of facts supporting this conclusion. Now however, the DOJ is standing by Texas and in opposition to private plaintiffs, joining in their motion to delay hearings on SB 14. The hearing was already delayed one month after the DOJ filed for a continuance on Inauguration Day in order to brief the new administration prior to the previously scheduled January 24 hearing.

“Texas is trying to evade justice through continual delay,” said Gerry Hebert, director of voting rights and redistricting at the Campaign Legal Center. “This law not only harms minorities, it was designed to do so. The DOJ’s retreat is shameful and shows where the department stands on protecting voting rights.”

The joint motion is based on Texas legislators’ introduction of SB 5, a law that would amend the strict voter ID law. Proposed changes include some positive steps to protect voters such as allowances to use secondary forms of identification or recently expired IDs. However, the new bill has obvious flaws that perhaps could have been addressed if the plaintiffs were consulted. For example, the bill proposes a harsh criminal penalty, prominently advertised, for misuse of the declaration. This is an entirely unnecessary addition to the state’s perjury laws and appears designed to intimidate voters.

“The discriminatory facts of SB 14 have not changed,” said Danielle Lang, deputy director of voting rights at the Campaign Legal Center. “The court must hear the facts of this case at the earliest opportunity. The choice to exclude forms of ID that students and minorities are more likely to bring to the polls was not done by accident. It was done to make it more difficult for these groups to vote. The court should not allow any further delay."

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