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Justice department softens on Texas voter ID law

An election official checks a voter's photo ID in Austin, Texas. Photo: February 2014Image copyright AP
Image caption A federal court ruled last year that Texas’ law had a discriminatory effect

The US Department of Justice has dropped its long-standing opposition to a key aspect of Texas’ voter ID law.

It said it would no longer argue that the law passed in 2011 was intended to discriminate against minorities.

But it did not withdraw altogether from a lawsuit that also argues that the law had a discriminatory effect.

The law requires voters to show only certain forms of ID, including gun permits. But – unlike in other states – college IDs are not acceptable.

Last year, a federal appeals court ruled that the law had a discriminatory effect.

It said this was because the forms of ID required suited Republican-leaning white voters and excluded forms of ID that were more likely to be used by minorities and Democrat-leaning younger voters.

The court also ordered changes to be made before last November’s presidential election.

In January, the US Supreme Court rejected a Texas appeal that sought to restore the law.

The new position of the justice department was announced ahead of Tuesday’s court hearing in Corpus Christi, Texas, where the “intent” aspect of the law will be examined.

The change in the justice department’s position means it will no longer be supporting civil rights groups who are contesting the Texas law.

Commentators say the reversal is an insight into how President Donald Trump’s administration and Attorney General Jeff Sessions will approach civil rights issues.

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