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The Brief: March 15, 2012

Texas has already filed suit to defend its voter ID law, but the state now has bigger plans: changing a historic piece of federal voting legislation.

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The Big Conversation:

Texas has already filed suit to defend its voter ID law, but the state now has bigger plans: changing a historic piece of federal voting legislation.

Attorney General Greg Abbott on Wednesday challenged the constitutionality of a key piece of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 that requires Texas and 15 other states to with a history of minority voter disenfranchisement to seek approval, or "preclearance," of any changes to their voting laws.

Abbott filed the argument in a Washington, D.C.-based federal court two days after the U.S. Department of Justice blocked the state's contentious voter ID law, which would require Texans to show a form of photo identification at the polls. The Justice Department said the law would disproportionately dampen turnout among Hispanic voters.

“The U.S. Supreme Court has already upheld the constitutionality of laws requiring voters to show a photo ID when voting,” Abbott said, referring to a high court ruling in 2008 that upheld an Indiana voter ID law.

Democrats attacked the move. The Voting Rights Act "has been one of the few areas of true bipartisanship because everyone understands the importance of the right to vote and the struggle for millions to achieve it,” state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, told the San Antonio Express-News. Ellis added that U.S. Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn, both Republicans, have voted to renew the act.

But Democrats weren't the only ones to express disapproval of Abbott's play. As Cornyn himself told The Dallas Morning News, the problem isn't the law but rather the Obama administration's use of it.

“I don’t think it’s necessary to challenge the authority under Section 5," Cornyn said, referring to the key provision. "I think it’s necessary to challenge the abuse of that authority at the hands of [U.S. Attorney General] Eric Holder."

Culled:

  • State agencies have paid fired or resigning state employees more than $500 million in unused vacation time over the last decade, the Tribune's Emily Ramshaw and Becca Aaronson report today. The spending has drawn critics, but state workers say agencies are so understaffed that they can’t take time off.
  • The Houston Chronicle has a look at "Agenda 21," a 1992 nonbinding U.N. resolution encouraging conservation that U.S. Senate candidate Ted Cruz on his website calls a “globalist plan that tries to subvert the U.S. Constitution and the liberties we all cherish as Americans.” The U.S. adopted the agenda during the Bush administration, the Chronicle reports, but it isn't treated as a legally binding document. Still, the Republican Party has issued warnings about the agenda, calling it “a comprehensive plan of extreme environmentalism, social engineering and global political control."
  • As ABC News reports, supporters of Ron Paul — who has pinned his presidential candidacy on picking up delegates at smaller contests en route to the Republican National Convention  — have been accused of disrupting county conventions in Colorado in Iowa. “They were abrasive, offensive, and self-centered,” one Iowa Republican county chairman said of a group of Paul supporters who illegally tried to become delegates. The Paul campaign has called the complaints "spin and whining from supporters of other candidates who are frustrated that Dr. Paul’s supporters have out-organized and out-hustled them."

"President Barack Obama is waging a policy war on conservative values in Texas. This time they want to end a health program for 100,000 Texas women just because we have not funded abortion providers or their affiliates with your taxpayer money."Rick Perry in a robocall to Texas voters, as reported by The Dallas Morning News

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