POLITICS

Obama Backs Lawsuit Defending Texas Voter ID Law

Voiters wait in line outside the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections in Cleveland on the final day of early voting Monday, Nov. 5, 2012. About 1.6 million people have voted early in Ohio. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Voiters wait in line outside the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections in Cleveland on the final day of early voting Monday, Nov. 5, 2012. About 1.6 million people have voted early in Ohio. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)  (AP2012)

President Barack Obama is defending the Justice Department's lawsuit over Texas' voter ID law and says his administration will use tools available through the Voting Rights Act to keep jurisdictions from enacting laws that have the effect of preventing people from voting.

In an interview with PBS broadcast Wednesday, Obama said that while some voting restrictions may contain a racial element, the reasons for the constraints are more likely partisan.

The Supreme Court has said the Voting Rights Act needs revisions, meaning certain jurisdictions no longer need to have new voting laws reviewed ahead of time to gauge their effect on minority voters.

Obama said he's working with lawmakers to amend the act. But he said his administration also will try other approaches to make up for the court's decision.

Determined to stop a potential wave of states from pursuing measures that suppress voting rights, the Justice Department sued Texas last Thursday over the voter ID law and will seek to intervene in a lawsuit over its redistricting laws that minority groups complain are discriminatory.

Texas Republicans, however, insist these laws are designed to protect the state's elections from fraud.

Attorney General Eric Holder said the action marks another step in the effort to protect voting rights of all eligible Americans. He said the government will not allow a recent Supreme Court decision to be interpreted as a precedence for states to suppress voting rights.

"This represents the department's latest action to protect voting rights, but it will not be our last," the attorney general said.

Holder is concentrating on Texas because of years of litigation over the state's voter ID law and redistricting maps that federal judges in Washington have determined would either indirectly disenfranchise minorities and the poor, or intentionally discriminate minorities.

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 voters' rights based on race, color or membership in a language minority group. The law requires voters to produce a state-issued ID before casting a ballot, while before voters could use their registration cards.

Texas is the only state found to have intentionally discriminated against minorities in this decade's round of redistricting, and the state was banned from enforcing either law. But the U.S. Supreme Court decision requiring revisions to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 took away the judges' authority to intervene.

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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