State Net Capitol Journal: Former Preclearance States Moving Ahead With Voting Law Changes

Within hours of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling last month freeing states with a history of voter discrimination from having to obtain federal approval before making any changes to their voting laws, Texas officials announced they would begin enforcing a strict photo ID requirement for voters, which was blocked by a federal court last year on the ground that it would disproportionately affect minority voters. Officials in Mississippi and Alabama said they were implementing voter ID laws that had been passed in those states but which hadn't received federal approval. And Republic lawmakers in North Carolina said they were moving ahead with voter restrictions there, including a photo ID requirement and a reduction in the number of early voting days, which were particularly popular with Democrats and black voters in the 2012 presidential election, as soon as next week. 
 
Wendy R. Weiser, director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, said those actions highlight the need for Congress to update its formula for determining which states should be subject to the Voting Rights Act's preclearance requirement, which the high court left the door open for in its ruling last month. 
 
"The speed with which some of these jurisdictions have rushed forward to implement voting changes that were previously thought to be discriminatory, or at least suspected of being discriminatory, shows the real urgency for Congress acting," she said. 
 
But former preclearance states can still have their voting laws challenged in state or federal court right now. And that already appears to be happening in Texas, where a new lawsuit challenging the state's voter ID law has been filed in Federal District Court in Corpus Christi on behalf of a group of black and Hispanic Texas residents. 
 
"Not more than two hours after the Supreme Court handed down its decision, the State of Texas went forward with implementing a photo ID law that it knew had been found to be discriminatory," said Chad W. Dunn, a Texas attorney who filed the suit. (NEW YORK TIMES, STATE NET) 

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