Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott isn't happy that the Obama Justice Department is taking “so long” to review the state's Voter ID law (SB 14) under the Voting Rights Act.
Never mind that it was the State of Texas that dragged its feet on getting the additional information DOJ requested as part of its review, turning it in only on January 12, just days before the deadline.
And never mind that information was something you might think would be pretty basic to the question of the Voter ID bill's discriminatory impact – a breakdown by ethnicity of the more than 600,000 Texas registered voters who lack a driver's license or state-issued ID.
But be that as it may, Abbott's mad as heck and he's not taking it it anymore, deciding to try to jump start the process by suing in D.C. district court to obtain preclearance of SB 14.
As Abbott explained in a press statement:
Because the DOJ refused to preclear South Carolina's voter identification law-and is delaying Texas' ability to enforce its photo identification requirement-the State filed a lawsuit seeking judicial preclearance from the federal district court in Washington, DC. Given the Texas law's similarity to the Indiana statute that was upheld by the Supreme Court, Texas argues that its photo identification requirement is lawful and should be precleared. Alternatively, the State argues that the Court must interpret Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act to permit preclearance of Texas' voter identification law in order to avoid questions about the constitutionality of Section 5. As Justice Kennedy recently stated, “Texas is at a tremendous disadvantage” because “section 5 applies only to some States and not others.”
Although today's legal action asks the federal court to approve its voter identification law, the State's preclearance submission remains pending with the DOJ. The dual track approach is intended to facilitate the fastest possible resolution so that Texas can implement the new law as soon as possible. If the DOJ approves the law, the State will dismiss its lawsuit.
The suit does not challenge the constitutionality of section 5 on a facial basis but does extensively argue that failing to preclear Texas' voter ID law would raise constitutional concerns, including possible violations of the 10th amendment and the state's right to equal sovereignty.
As explained in this earlier post, many observers think the Texas case could yet make it to the Supreme Court and set up a showdown on section 5.
In other words, the Justices could be seeing a lot of Texas this year – for better or for worse.
A copy of the state's complaint can be found here.