The Trump administration plans to tell a federal court later Monday that it will no longer pursue a claim that the Texas voter ID law was written to be intentionally discriminatory, lawyers for voting rights organizations said.
The Department of Justice believes it no longer has to pursue the claim in light of the recent introduction of Senate Bill 5, which would codify most of the court-ordered changes to the Texas law — allowing, for example, a wider array of identification for those without a government-issued photo ID, lawyers said.
Danielle Lang, of the Washington-based Campaign Legal Center, said Monday that Justice Department lawyers said they will be filing documents to formally end opposition to the Texas law. She called the decision an “extraordinary disappointment.”
The move marks a stark reversal under new Attorney General Jeff Sessions from the Obama White House, which joined a lawsuit against Texas in 2013. The Justice Department didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
Chad Dunn, a Houston lawyer representing civil rights groups and private plaintiffs who challenged the voter ID law, said they will continue trying to prove that the law was intentionally adopted to discriminate against minority, elderly and low-income voters.
A hearing on the matter will be held Tuesday in Corpus Christi federal court.
“SB 5 is an important development insofar as the state is giving the signal that it accepts responsibility for adopting a discriminatory law,” Dunn said. “The case that original voter ID law was intended to be discriminatory is strong. At this point we intend to continue to press that case.”
Last year, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Texas law discriminated against minorities and the poor but returned the case to U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of Corpus Christi with instructions to determine whether the law was written to be intentionally discriminatory.
Last week, Ramos rejected a request from Texas lawyers to delay Tuesday’s hearing to give the Legislature time to enact SB 5.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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