Just proving that the laws were written to benefit Republicans isn’t enough. “Purely partisan purpose is not something that would violate the VRA,” Bagenstos said.
Texas is arguing that the Bush-era pre-clearance of Georgia’s voter ID law — a decision made by political appointees over the objections of career staffers — should mean that their similar voter ID law should be pre-cleared as well. Bagenstos said that the Obama Justice Department isn’t bound by the decisions of the previous administration.
“Certainly the Georgia pre-clearance decision from the Bush administration is a decision that is under a bit of a cloud based on everything that emerged about it and given the findings of various DOJ investigations,” Bagenstos said.
Thanks to a constitutional challenge from Arizona, Section 5 of the VRA is facing a somewhat uncertain future itself. Several localities have gone to court arguing that Section 5 is unconstitutional, but Arizona’s challenge was the first that came from a state.
Arizona’s top lawyer Tom Horne has argued that Section 5 was “either archaic, not based in fact, or subject to completely subjective enforcement based on the whim of federal authorities.”
The Justice Department said they’ll defend the 1965 law.
“The Department of Justice will vigorously defend the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act in this case, as it has done successfully in the past,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement. “The provisions challenged in this case, including the preclearance requirement, were reauthorized by Congress in 2006 with overwhelming and bipartisan support. The Justice Department will continue to enforce the Voting Rights Act, including each of the provisions challenged today.”