On Thursday, Attorney General Eric Holder referenced the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in a speech to the National Urban League at the organization’s annual convention in Philadelphia. Speaking indirectly to Texas lawmakers, Holder is turning his attention to the state with regard to approving any changes to voting rules.
Last month, the High Court struck down one of the key provisions of the Act, Section 4B or “preclearance,” which allowed the Justice Department to intervene should certain states make changes to voting rules with a discriminatory or disruptive bent.
Five states – Texas, South Carolina, Virginia, Alabama, and Mississippi – quickly moved ahead with controversial Voter ID laws that the Department of Justice (DOJ) found discriminatory.
Holder was clear that his department wants Texas to uphold preclearance from the Voting Rights Act, and spoke openly at the convention about what his office intends.
From Eric Holder:
[T]oday I am announcing that the Justice Department will ask a federal court in Texas to subject the State of Texas to a preclearance regime similar to the one required by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. This request to “bail in” the state – and require it to obtain “pre-approval” from either the Department or a federal court before implementing future voting changes – is available under the Voting Rights Act when intentional voting discrimination is found.
Based on the evidence of intentional racial discrimination that was presented last year in the redistricting case, Texas v. Holder – as well as the history of pervasive voting-related discrimination against racial minorities that the Supreme Court itself has recognized – we believe that the State of Texas should be required to go through a preclearance process whenever it changes its voting laws and practices.
Holder vowed that this will the first of many actions to protect voting rights in Texas after the controversial “Texas v. Holder” ruling. Georgia Rep. John Lewis praised Holder for his comments, and hopes that North Carolina, undergoing an ugly battle over a Republican-led voting rights bill, will be next to get the DOJ’s attention.