Insights & Analyses

Under Trump, US DOJ backs off opposition to controversial Texas voter ID law

March 1, 2017

The U.S. Department of Justice this week changed course under the new Trump administration, backing away from its opposition to a law in Texas that makes it harder to vote without a government-issued ID.

The 2011 law is recognized as one of the strictest voter ID rules in the country, prompting the DOJ, under President Obama, to file a lawsuit to block it. The previous administration argued that the Texas law had discriminatory intent to discourage minority voters.

Under Trump, however, the DOJ will not share that position — the justice department and new Attorney General Jeff Sessions revealed on Monday that they are withdrawing their claim of discriminatory intent, according to The New York Times.

The change of position under the new administration comes after the state legislature showed interest in a new voter ID bill that addresses some of the concerns of the existing law. Specifically, if passed, it would allow citizens to sign an affidavit and show a utility bill or bank statement, without a government-issued ID, to legally cast a ballot.

Critics of the current Texas law say that Republican legislators selected the types of identification that would benefit their base, including concealed carry permits for handguns. Meanwhile, government employee IDs and public university IDs were not approved, in what some viewed as discrimination toward minorities, younger voters, and Democrats.

Now, the DOJ says it is backing away from its opposition to the law, in an effort to allow the Texas legislature to “rectify any alleged infirmities with its voter identification law.” It cited a Supreme Court decision that federal courts should give state legislatures the opportunity to remedy voting rights violations.

Voter ID laws are a hot button issue in the U.S., as Republicans want to verify voters to cut down on potential fraud, while Democrats believe such barriers are a hinderance to the democratic process. Both sides have much to gain from their respective stances, as statistics routinely show that voter ID laws reduce turnout of minorities, who generally vote Democrat.