Justice Department to sue Texas over voter ID law

An election official answers a question for a voter on November 6, 2012 in Mansfield, Texas. Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Updated 1:42 p.m. ET

The Justice Department said Thursday it will sue Texas over the state's voter ID law and will seek to intervene in a lawsuit over the state's redistricting laws.

"Today's action marks another step forward in the Justice Department's continuing effort to protect the voting rights of all eligible Americans," Attorney General Eric Holder said in a written statement. "We will not allow the Supreme Court's recent decision to be interpreted as open season for states to pursue measures that suppress voting rights."

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, fired back saying, "Facts mean little to a politicized Justice Department bent on inserting itself into the sovereign affairs of Texas and a lame-duck Administration trying to turn our state blue.

"As Texans we reject the notion that the federal government knows what's best for us. We deserve the freedom to make our own laws and we deserve not to be insulted by a Justice Department committed to scoring cheap political points."

Gov. Rick Perry, R., issued a similar statement slamming the administration.

"The filing of endless litigation in an effort to obstruct the will of the people of Texas is what we have come to expect from Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama," he said. "We will continue to defend the integrity of our elections against this administration's blatant disregard for the 10th Amendment."

On June 25, the Supreme Court effectively threw out the most powerful part of the Voting Rights Act, whose enactment in 1965 marked a major turning point in black Americans' struggle for equal rights and political power.

In the voter ID lawsuit, the U.S. government will contend that Texas adopted a voter identification law with the purpose of denying or restricting the right to vote on account of race, color or membership in a language minority group.

Intervening in the redistricting case would enable the federal government to present evidence about the purpose and effect of the Texas redistricting plans. A federal court in Washington, D.C., has previously held that Texas failed to meet its burden of proving that its 2011 redistricting plans and its 2011 voter identification law were not discriminatory.

Last month, Holder said that the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division is shifting resources to the enforcement of a number of federal voting laws not affected by the Supreme Court's decision - including the remaining provisions of the Voting Rights Act, prohibiting voting discrimination based on race, color, or language. Still, he said, Congress needs to fill the void left by the court ruling.

"We cannot allow the slow unraveling of the progress that so many, throughout history, have sacrificed so much to achieve," Holder said.

Since the Supreme Court weakened the Voting Rights Act, at least six states that were previously subject to stricter oversight under the law have moved forward with controversial new voter ID laws.

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