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Texas Voter ID Fight A National And Local Battle

Chris Eudaily | Texas Public Radio

Texas Matters: The struggle over the State of Texas' voter ID law is being taken up by everyone from Washington D.C. to Dallas County Commissioners Court. Also on this show: Sen. Ted Cruz talks about defunding the Affordable Care Act, Gov. Perry may or may not be interested in an ACA-created program, and TxDOT is waiting to turn South Texas roads into gravel.

State of Texas vs. Department of Justice - The epic battle continues

On Thursday U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Department of Justice is suing the State of Texas over voting rights violations with the state’s voter ID law. The DOJ will also be joining a lawsuit over the state’s redistricting maps, which critics have called discriminatory.

The action by Holder is the latest volley in the ongoing dispute between the federal government and the Lone Star State.

Texas Democrats welcomed the news, and state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer of San Antonio, who has been a leader for the Democrats in the fight, recently met with Holder and President Obama at the White House to discuss strategy.

"The President of the United States was very, very clear that he was committed, and his administration was committed, to voting rights. This was something that was going to be important to his presidency. And the attorney general was very clear that there were some significant tools left in the voting rights toolbox and that he intended to use them."

Gov. Rick Perry responded to the lawsuit with a brief written statement saying Texas would continue to defend "the integrity of our elections." And Perry called the legal action as an "end-run around the Supreme Court."

Like Perry, many of the state’s leading Republicans released statements that condemned Holder and defended their party. The list includes Barry Smitherman, who is currently the chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission and a candidate for Texas attorney general in 2014.

"It's disturbing because Holder continues to ignore U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Shelby County case, which clearly stated that we no longer have to pre-clear our redistricting lines with the Department of Justice because the Voting Rights Act requires a demonstration of present frustration or discrimination against ethnic minority voters, and it is not a test that looks backward to situations that were in effect in the 60s and 70s."

Local governments also joining the fight against voter ID

Earlier this week, Dallas County Commissioners Court voted to fight the Texas voter ID law in court. They decided to join Congressman Marc Veasey, a Fort Worth Democrat, in his lawsuit urging a federal district court to issue an injunction against the voter ID law. 

Veasey brought his lawsuit under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and also claimed violations of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

"One of the problems that I have with it is that a three-judge panel -- and a three-judge Republican-majority panel -- ruled that the Texas Voter ID law violated the Voting Rights Act, and that's a huge problem. The state's own data -- the (Texas) Republican Secretary of State (John Steen's) own data -- shows that people would be discriminated against and disenfranchised if this law were implemented."

Also on this episode of Texas Matters:

Credit Shelley Kofler / KERA News
Sen. Ted Cruz at a Dallas rally on Tuesday, Aug. 20.

Cruz rallies conservatives to defund Obamacare

Republican Senator Ted Cruz also released a statement regarding the Department of Justice's decision to sue Texas over Voter ID.

"Today's decision by the U.S. Department of Justice to sue Texas is, sadly, only the latest manifestation of the DOJ's increasing politicization under this administration. The U.S. Supreme Court has expressly held that voter ID laws are constitutional, and DOJ’s decision today to attack Texas’ voter ID program is contrary to law."

Earlier this week Cruz faced some hecklers in Dallas as he urged conservatives to demand their lawmakers vote to defund ObamaCare. KERA’s Shelley Kofler reports the push comes as Cruz is increasingly mentioned as a likely presidential candidate in 2016.

Perry may pass on ACA-created program for the disabled

Gov. Rick Perry now has some explaining to do after a report on Politico.com that said Texas was in talks with the Obama administration to bring some Affordable Care Act money to Texas.

The money in question is from the Community First Choice program, which was created with the passage of the ACA and helps Medicaid cover at-home care for the disabled rather than putting them into institutions.

Perry denies he wants the money and denies the program is part of the ACA, but there’s no denying that Texas needs this program.

Susan Murphree is the senior policy specialist for Disability Rights Texas.

"We have tens of thousands of people on waiting lists for community services -- some of them have been waiting as long as ten years -- and so having access to this would be a very cost-effective service and would save the tax payer money so they do not end up without services and have their conditions worsen and get admitted to a long-term care facility or state-supported living center, which is very expensive and not as good an option for the individual."

Turning roads into rubble in South Texas

This was supposed to be the week that the Texas Department of Transportation was going to start tearing up some select state roads in South Texas and turn them into gravel roads, which are much cheaper to maintain.

Because of the truck traffic caused by the Texas energy boom in South and West Texas, the roads needed a lot of repair, but TxDOT doesn’t have the money.

State Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, is looking to keep TxDOT from going through with their plan, which he has succeeded in doing -- for now.

David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi