The Trump administration, reversing the Justice Department's position in one of the most important voting rights cases in the country, now says Texas should not have to get federal permission for any changes to its election system.
The changed position came in a lawsuit challenging the state's congressional and legislative maps as gerrymandered to limit the political power of blacks and Latinos.
The Supreme Court six years ago struck down the part of the Voting Rights Act that has been most widely used to require many parts of the South, including Texas, to "pre-clear" any voting changes with the federal government. The plaintiffs in the Texas case cite a different provision, which says pre-clearance can be required in places with a clear and continuing history of intentional discrimination. Placing all of the country's second biggest state in that category would be a major victory for voting rights groups and a huge blow to conservatives arguing that states hold be left alone to set their own election rules.
"Generations of DOJ lawyers, including myself, have taken turns combating Texas' many racially discriminatory voting policies. If Texas can't meet this DOJ's standards for warranting pre-clearance, I suspect no jurisdiction can," Sasha Samberg-Champion, a former senior attorney in the appellate section of the Justice Department's civil rights division, told the HuffPost.