AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — President Donald Trump’s administration has abandoned an Obama-era challenge to a 2011 Texas voter ID law that is among the toughest in the nation. Civil rights groups are still contesting the Texas law in federal court, but without the muscle of the federal government behind them. Here are answers to key questions about the case so far— and where it goes from here.
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
Texas Republicans passed the measure in 2011 requiring voters to show one of seven forms of state-approved photo identification at the polls to cast a ballot. That list includes concealed handgun permits but not college IDs. There was no process to allow voters without suitable identification to sign an affidavit and cast a ballot. A federal court found an estimated 600,000 registered voters could be disenfranchised by the law, and that some minorities lacking an acceptable identification could be forced to travel up to 250 miles round trip to obtain a state voter-ID certificate.
The Obama Justice Department refused to allow for the Texas law under a section of the Voting Rights Act that required mostly southern states with a history of discrimination, including Texas, to get election changes approved by the federal government. Texas sued but a federal court in Washington blocked the law in August 2012. The law later took effect in 2013 after the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the section of the Voting Rights Act that required federal government preclearance.
Civil rights groups sued in 2013, and the Obama Justice Department supported them. U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of Corpus Christi struck down the law in 2014, but it was later reinstated on a temporary basis by a federal appeals court. Last year, that appeals court found the law had a discriminatory effect on minorities and ordered it to be weakened for the November election.
WHAT DOES THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION DECISION MEAN?
It is an early indication of how the Justice Department under…