The first sign that President Donald Trump’s Justice Department would be shifting its approach to voting rights – specifically towards voter ID laws – came in a motion it filed Friday in a blockbuster case in Texas. The motion asked for a 30-day delay in the proceedings, particularly a hearing scheduled for next week, “to brief the new leadership of the Department on this case and the issues to be addressed at that hearing before making any representations to the Court.”
Throughout his confirmation hearings last week, Trump’s nominee for Attorney General, Sen. Jeff Session’s (R-AL) defended voter ID laws, which had been the target of a number high profile DOJ-supported lawsuits under then-President Obama’s administration.
The Texas voter ID law — regarded one of the strictest in the nation — was struck down by a panel of judges on an extremely conservative appeals court over the summer. They said the law had the effect of discriminating against minorities, but sent the case back to a district court to examine whether the law was also passed with an discriminatory intent — which is the point of the proceedings in which Trump’s DOJ is now seeking a delay.
A petition for the Supreme Court to overturn the appeals court’s decision is also ongoing, but the high court has not yet signaled what it intends to do on the case.
Texas supported the DOJ’s request for a delay, according to the complaint, but the private organizations suing the state over the law did not.