The Justice Department's refusal to approve the Texas voter identification law is a step forward, but it doesn't come close to resolving whether the state will implement the requirement for any of this year's elections.Chances are the legal dispute over the law will prevent it from taking effect for the May 12 local elections or party primaries currently set for May 29.Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, who heads Justice's civil rights division, notified Texas by letter Monday that the voter ID law does not comply with the federal Voting Rights Act.The act bars states from adopting electoral changes that have the purpose or effect of obstructing the right to vote based on race, color or membership in a language minority group.The Texas ID law, enacted last year, requires voters to show a government-issued photo card to cast a ballot. Acceptable documents are a military ID, driver's license, U.S. citizenship certificate that has a photo, U.S. passport, concealed-handgun license or voter card from the Department of Public Safety.The state told Justice that mandating a photo ID is necessary to protect the integrity of elections and deter voting by ineligible people. But Perez said in his letter that "the state's submission did not include evidence of significant in-person voter impersonation not already addressed" by existing Texas laws.Moreover, he said, data submitted by the state show that Hispanic voters are far more likely than non-Hispanics to lack the required photo IDs and have a hard time getting them.Justice looked at data about registered voters, driver's licensees and holders of DPS-issued IDs from September 2011 and January 2012. Hispanics made up 21.8 percent of registered voters in both months (12,780,841 voters were registered as of September, 12,892,280 as of January).Hispanics made up 29 percent of registered voters without the required identification in September and more than 38 percent in January."Even using the data most favorable to the state, Hispanics disproportionately lack either a driver's license or a personal identification card issued by DPS, and that disparity is statistically significant," Justice said.The letter added that the state didn't give the Justice Department information on whether African-American or Asian voters are also disproportionately affected by the law.Supporters of the law often argue that it should be easy for those who want an ID to get one from the DPS. But Justice said there are barriers: 81 of Texas' 254 counties don't have DPS offices, only 49 of the 221 offices stay open late hours and Hispanics are more likely than non-Hispanic whites to live in counties without DPS offices and lack private transportation to get to one.In a website statement on Justice's action, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said that since 2002, election fraud investigations by the state attorney general's office have resulted in 50 convictions. That's an average of five a year under existing law -- hardly a justification for the new requirement. (bit.ly/y3KmRN)The Star-Telegram Editorial Board has long taken the position that the voter ID law is a solution in search of a problem.It was ironic that Texas Sen. John Cornyn, who heads the National Republican Senatorial committee, quickly issued a statement Monday saying Justice's decision "reeks of politics" and calling it an effort to "carry water for the president's re-election campaign."Surely Cornyn knows that the law was politically motivated in the first place -- to boost Texas Republicans' advantage over Democrats.Abbott in January asked a federal panel in Washington to approve the voter ID law, but those judges were waiting for the Justice Department's decision. That court is expected to hold a hearing Wednesday to decide how to proceed with the case.It's unfortunate that Texas taxpayers will continue pouring money into legal fees and court expenses to continue a clash whose benefits don't outweigh the costs.