Texas Needs to Chill With the War on Voting Rights


At ColorLines, Brentin Mock worries about the implication of Texas' challenge to the Voting Rights Act .


Challenging the Department of Justice’s rejection of Texas’s proposed photo voter ID laws wasn’t enough. No, Texas had to challenge the Voting Rights Act itself, particularly Section 5, which grants the federal government special powers to oversee election law changes in states and counties that have troublesome histories with voter discrimination. The state of Texas preemptively challenged the constitutionality of Section 5, meaning they filed a lawsuit to have it overturned before they even heard back from DOJ about whether their voter ID law would be cleared. This is a clear frontal attack on the keystone of one of the most important pieces of civil rights legislation achieved in the United States.

A three-judge panel determined that it would consider Texas’ challenge of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act only after the lawsuit concerning their photo voter ID law is reconciled. But Texas isn’t playing nice in that lawsuit. Last week, the state’s attorney general Greg Abbott opposed releasing 12 state legislators — sponsors of the voter ID bill — for depositions requested by DOJ’s civil rights division attorneys. DOJ has requested the depositions, along with any written communications between state legislators about the bill, so that they can investigate whether there was any discriminatory intent behind creating it. Abbott is stiff-arming DOJ though saying in a court filing:

“If litigants can depose individual legislators and traipse through every communication of those legislators simply by alleging that a state law was enacted with an impermissible purpose, then state lawmakers will be chilled from engaging in the communications necessary to perform their jobs properly.”

The bold is mine. I want to point out that Abbott’s statement shows that he recognizes what suppression means. His point about the chill effect that a DOJ investigation would bring is his attempt to say that such examinations would suppress job performance by making legislators scared to candidly discuss legislation before creating laws, which is their primary job.

Read Brentin Mock's entire piece at ColorLines.

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