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Supreme Court nixes Texas voting rulings

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Supreme Court on Thursday sent two cases concerning voting laws in Texas back to lower courts for reconsideration in light of a major ruling this week that knocked out a key section of the 48-year-old Voting Rights Act that fought discrimination at the polls.

The cases concern proposals on redistricting and voter identification that had been rejected by federal judges under a provision of the law that the Supreme Court ruling effectively nullified.

In Tuesday's ruling, the court struck down a section of the landmark 1965 law that sets the formula under which certain states have to ask the federal government or a judge for approval before making changes to their voting procedures.

The decision neutralized the so-called "preclearance" provision which required Texas and eight other states to submit proposed changes for approval.

The decision indicates that Texas will no longer have to undertake that process, at least until the U.S. Congress comes up with a new formula for areas covered by the law meant to protect blacks and other minorities in places where discrimination persists.

The voter identification law, passed in Texas in 2011, requires all voters to present identification when they vote in person. A federal judge said the law would impose a disproportionate burden on lower income people, many of whom are minorities.

The redistricting plan, approved after the 2010 census, was rejected by a federal court in part because there were not enough districts in which minorities were a majority.

Texas had sought Supreme Court review on both issues. The cases were put on hold while the court decided the challenge to the Voting Rights Act.

Lawyers representing minority voters had pointed out to the court that the 2011 redistricting plan could now be viewed as moot as the Texas legislature has passed a new plan that meets the requirements set by the lower court.

The redistricting case is Texas v. United States, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 12-496 and the voter identification case is Texas v. Holder, U.S. Supreme Court, 12-1028.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Howard Goller and Vicki Allen)

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