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DOJ files complaint against Texas over voter ID law

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF] Thursday against the state of Texas, the Texas Secretary of State and the Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, seeking a declaration from the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas [official website] that a voter photo identification law [SB 14, text] violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) [text, PDF], as well as the voting guarantees of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments [text]. Although courts have previously rejected the law as a violation of Section 5 of the VRA, Texas officials claim that the June ruling [JURIST report] of the US Supreme Court [official website] in Shelby County v. Holder [SCOTUSblog backgrounder] has freed the state from federal supervision, allowing it to put SB 14 back in effect [Huffington Post report].

The controversial SB 14 passed [press release] the Texas Legislature [official website] in 2011 and has remained a contentious voting rights [JURIST backgrounder] issue ever since. The DOJ rejected the Texas law [JURIST report] shortly after it came into effect in April 2012, noting that SB 14 would have a disproportionate impact on the state's Latino voters, and that the law is potentially discriminatory. The charge came only a month after Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez sent a letter on behalf of the DOJ [JURIST report] claiming that the law violated Section 5 of the VRA. In December, a three-judge panel in the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] granted permission [JURIST report] to Texas officials to immediately appeal its August ruling [JURIST report] rejecting a SB 14, which stated that the retrogressive effect within the law necessarily invalidated it under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA).

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