Texas News
1:42 pm
Tue June 25, 2013

The Texas Impact Of The High Court's Voting Rights Act Decision

Next time you go to the polls to vote in Texas, you might need to bring ID. Today, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act that makes it possible for the state to move forward with controversial laws, like voter ID and redistricting.

The KERA radio story.

Until now, Texas has been one of nine states where any changes to voting practices had to be pre-cleared by the Justice Department. That meant reviewing everything from a new polling location to redistricting to ensure there was no discriminatory intent or effect.

In today’s Supreme Court ruling, University of Texas at Austin Professor Jim Henson says “what they’ve done is flipped that around.”

Now, Henson says, the burden to prove discrimination will fall on the people who say they’re discriminated against. That’s unless Congress passes a new bill for determining which states require federal oversight.

“The political reality,” Henson says, “Is that it’s highly unlikely the Republican house is going to pass any guidelines for federal supervision.”

This comes as welcome news for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who fiercely opposed Justice Department preclearance.  In a press statement released hours after the ruling, Abbott said “The State’s voter ID law will take effect immediately” and “Redistricting maps passed by the Legislature may also take effect without approval from the federal government.”

And while the High Court’s ruling does not abolish the entire Voting Rights Act – which prohibits racial discrimination nationwide – some minority groups are concerned Tuesday’s decision means states will enact laws that had been held up.

Karolina Lyznik, an attorney for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, says the voter ID law is especially concerning.

“We really want to prevail upon congress to act and to act quickly because as the chief justice held he recognized that discrimination still exists throughout the United States and it is a persistent and pervasive problem in Texas in particular.”