AUSTIN, Texas - The Justice Department sued Texas on Thursday over the state's voter ID law and will seek to intervene in a lawsuit over its redistricting laws that minority groups complain are discriminatory, but Texas Republicans insist are designed to protect the state's elections from fraud.
Attorney General Eric Holder said the action marks another step in the effort to protect voting rights of all eligible Americans. He said the government will not allow a recent Supreme Court decision to be interpreted as open season for states to pursue measures that suppress voting rights.
"This represents the department's latest action to protect voting rights, but it will not be our last," the attorney general said.
Holder is concentrating on Texas because of years of litigation over the state's Voter ID law and redistricting maps that federal judges in Washington have determined would either indirectly disenfranchise minorities and the poor, or intentionally discriminate minorities.
Texas is the only state found to have intentionally discriminated against minorities in this decade's round of redistricting, and the state was banned from enforcing either law. But the U.S. Supreme Court decision requiring revisions to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 took away the judges' authority to intervene.
That has forced Holder and minority groups to use other aspects of the Voting Rights Act or the Constitution to fight the cases in other federal courts.
Gov. Rick Perry called Holder's move a blatant disregard for states' 10th Amendment rights and has said the Obama administration's actions are an "end run around the Supreme Court."
"The filing of endless litigation in an effort to obstruct the will of the people of Texas is what we have come to expect from Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama," he added.
Attorney General Greg Abbott, a proponent of the voter ID law and a candidate to replace Perry, vowed to fight the Justice Department.
"Eric Holder is wrong to mess with Texas," he said. "By intervening in the redistricting case, the Obama DOJ is predictably joining with Democrat state legislators and Members of Congress and the Texas Democratic Party, who are already suing the State."
But state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus that is a plaintiff in the redistricting case, said federal intervention was necessary to protect minority rights.
"Federal courts have ruled time and again that government officials in Texas are systematically making it harder for minorities to vote," he said in a statement. "I am confident that the overwhelming evidence demonstrating intentional discrimination in Texas, when presented in court, will compel state officials to remove barriers to voting that will disenfranchise far too many of our citizens."