Manny Fernandez and Eric Licthblau in the NYT:
The Justice Department remains a party in the case. But it is pulling back at a crucial phase. If a judge finds the state acted with discriminatory intent, as the Justice Department and other plaintiffs have alleged, Texas could be forced to seek federal approval before it makes any changes to its voting laws or procedures. That would have major impacts on voting rules in Texas and be a potent symbol of the ability of the federal government to be a major brake on voting discrimination nationally.
“This is a complete 180-degree turn,” said Danielle Lang, a lawyer for the Campaign Legal Center, one of the groups that sued Texas and represents some of the Justice Department’s fellow plaintiffs in the voter ID case. Under the Obama administration, she added, the Justice Department was “fully committed to the case.”
“They were full partners,” Ms. Lang said. “This was their case as much as ours.”…
Whatever the case, Richard L. Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine, and an election-law expert said he saw the Justice Department’s action on Monday as “a sign of things to come.”
“This is the first step in what I expect to be a series of steps, with D.O.J. siding with the state of Texas,” he said. He added that by remaining in the case, the Justice Department “could actually do Texas more good than by getting out.”