In yet another move to turn the hands of time back to the era of Reconstruction, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is spearheading the Trump administration’s crusade against voting rights — this time defending Texas' controversial, illegal voter ID laws.
Donald Trump’s obsession with ransacking President Barack Obama’s legacy is not just a one-man jealous rampage, but one which permeates his entire administration — most notably the Justice Department and its chief, Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Largely ignoring Russia’s interference in our election, Sessions has instead devoted significant attention and resources toward making it easier for Republican legislators to squelch the voting rights of certain segments of the population.
One of Sessions' first moves as Attorney General was to direct the Justice Department to drop its challenge to Texas' voter ID laws that have repeatedly been ruled as blatantly discriminatory against minorities and the elderly. Unsurprisingly, this was a complete reversal of the Obama administration’s policy.
Sessions claimed that Texas has now fixed the pesky problem of racism in their voting laws with Senate Bill 5, the hastily scrapped-together attempt by the state legislature to modify the state’s voter ID laws just enough to pass muster with the federal courts. According to the Dallas Morning News:
In a filing Wednesday, the department asked a U.S. District Court in Corpus Christi to end legal challenges to the law. Federal officials say changes made to the original 2011 measure during this year's legislative session are ‘constitutionally and legally valid.’
The law that the Justice Department under Sessions deems "constitutionally and legally valid" has in fact been ruled to be among the most restrictive in the country. Federal courts have overturned it three times since 2011 as discriminatory and "infringing on the voting rights of about 600,000 registered Texas voters who lacked a government-issued photo ID."
Daily Kos reported, "Texas’s law was by far one of the most sweeping voter ID laws passed in the nation, listing seven acceptable forms of photo ID that clearly preference some voters over others. State-issued gun licenses, for instance, are acceptable while student IDs are not."
Papers filed by the Justice Department this week petition the court to drop the case and "decline any further remedies." But the GOP-controlled state legislature’s last-minute "fix" of their discriminatory ID requirements, under threat of potential federal oversight, is more cosmetic than substantive.
The new bill maintains the stringent ID requirements that the courts repeatedly rejected, though it now enables voters who do not have or face significant difficulty obtaining these forms of identification to bring in additional documentation and "sign a ‘declaration of impediment’ listing why they could not obtain one of the state-approved IDs in time for the election." The bill also loosens requirements on elderly and other voters with expired IDs.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs in Texas reject the legislature’s quick fix that the Trump/Sessions Justice Department has heralded:
At its core, SB 5 maintains the same unexplained picking and choosing of 'acceptable' photo IDs for in-person voting — accepting IDs disproportionately held by Anglo voters and rejecting IDs disproportionately held by minority voters — that led the Court, in part, to its discriminatory intent finding.
And this move is consistent with Shareblue’s exposure of Sessions' troubling lip service to justice while simultaneously doing everything possible to enable discrimination and subvert the civil rights of minorities, women, immigrants and the elderly:
This is a troubling development that confirms Democrats’ fears, that Sessions will spearhead a shift away from protecting voters from discriminatory voter suppression tactics and towards the Trump administration’s discredited focus on nonexistent voter fraud. Voting rights advocates and victims of voter suppression efforts are justifiably concerned.
Fortunately, both Democratic and Republican secretaries of state across the country have overwhelmingly rejected the Trump administration’s demands to turn over voter data and personal information as part of a wasteful effort to prove nonexistent voter fraud — an effort that mimics Trump’s similarly wasteful expenditure of time and taxpayer dollars in a futile attempt to support his lie that his inauguration crowd was larger than President Obama’s.
Hopefully, the federal courts will also reject the administration’s continued, specious efforts to suppress and disenfranchise voters to give themselves an unfair advantage in elections they cannot win on principles, policies, or qualifications alone.