DOJ Might Strike Down Photo ID Laws

When Republicans gained control of state legislatures across the country in 2010, they began a systematic effort to restrict voting access, disenfranchising likely Democratic voters in the process. Five states passed strict ID laws, which will require voters to present a form of government-issued photo identification to get their ballot on Election Day.

Some of those laws are still on hold thanks to Section Five of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The law requires states with a history of discrimination against minority voters to receive preclearance from either the Department of Justice or a federal court for any change to voting procedures. The burden of proof lies on the states, which must show that the changes will not harm minority voters. Photo ID laws in South Carolina and Texas are currently under review at the DOJ.

Now the Obama administration might be on the verge of striking down these Republican electioneering laws, according to a leading House Democrat. At a meeting with progressive journalists today, Rep. Maxine Waters described a meeting between Attorney General Eric Holder and the Congressional Black Caucus yesterday. Waters said that the caucus pushed Holder to invoke Section Five against these laws. "He said that he would. They're very serious about it," Waters said. "They're focusing on it. We made it very clear that we think he can absolutely use his authority and he should do that without any second thoughts."

The CBC has good reason to be concerned about the new photo ID laws. Study after study has shown that minority voters could be turned away in droves thanks to lack of government IDs. As many as one-in-four African-Americans nationally lack proper ID, and that figure is even higher for younger African-Americans.

"It's the most draconian voter ID bill in the nation," Wisconsin Rep. Gwen Moore said today of her home state's new photo ID law. In her view, the new Republican governor and the Republican legislature have schemed to change the laws to form a permanent majority. "They're Democratic voters clearly. And they do make the margin of difference in a state that is 50-50."

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