White House battles for voting rights

Attorney General Eric Holder vows to 'fully utilize the law's remaining sections' to protect voting rights of all Americans
Associated Press
Jul 26, 2013

The Obama administration opened an aggressive new front in the battle over voter protection Thursday, singling out Texas for legal action and promising broader efforts to come after last month's Supreme Court ruling that wiped out a major provision of the Voting Rights Act.

It was the administration's first legal response to counter the justices' 5-4 decision, but Attorney General Eric Holder pledged that "it will not be our last."

In a speech to the National Urban League in Philadelphia, Holder called the Voting Rights Act "the cornerstone of modern civil rights law" and said that "we cannot allow the slow unraveling of the progress that so many, throughout history, have sacrificed so much to achieve."

Texas Republicans suggested the administration effort was more about politics.

"This decision has nothing to do with protecting voting rights and everything to do with advancing a partisan political agenda," Sen John Cornyn said after Holder's speech.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said the Obama administration seemed to be "sowing racial divide" and accused the administration of joining Texas Democrats with an eye on the 2014 elections. Abbott is running for governor.

The Supreme Court, on June 25, threw out the most powerful part of the Voting Rights Act, whose enactment in 1965 marked a major turning point in black Americans' struggle for equal rights and political power.

Holder said the first Justice Department move would be to ask a federal court in San Antonio to require advance approval for voting changes in Texas, a state riven with political battles, from redistricting to voter ID requirements.

"Even as Congress considers updates to the Voting Rights Act in light of the court's ruling, we plan, in the meantime, to fully utilize the law's remaining sections to ensure that the voting rights of all American citizens are protected," Holder said.

The Justice Department is asking that a preapproval requirement in Texas apply for 10 years and "beyond 10 years in the event of further discriminatory acts," the department said in a court filing in San Antonio.

The separate provision of the Voting Rights Act that Holder is invoking may be a difficult tool for the Obama administration to use.

A handful of jurisdictions have been subjected to advance approval of election changes through the Civil Rights Act provision it is relying on, but a court first must find that a state or local government engaged in intentional discrimination under the Constitution's 14th or 15th amendments, or the jurisdiction has to admit to discrimination. Unlike in other parts of the voting law, the discriminatory effect of an action is not enough to trigger the so-called bail-in provision.

In the Texas case, the department is not directly intervening but is filing what's known as a statement of interest in support of private groups that have filed suit.

"The fact that intervention in Texas is the Department of Justice's first action to protect voting rights" following the Supreme Court decision "speaks volumes about the seriousness of Texas' actions," said state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, a Democrat from San Antonio and chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, which is a plaintiff in the San Antonio case.

North Carolina may become another target for the administration's initiative.

On Wednesday, the Republican-dominated North Carolina Senate gave preliminary approval to sweeping election law changes, including a requirement that voters present photo Identification at the polls and a shortening of early voting by a week.

In Texas, Holder said, there is a history of "pervasive voting-related discrimination against racial minorities."

Based on evidence of intentional racial discrimination presented last year in a redistricting case, "we believe that the state of Texas should be required to go through a preclearance process whenever it changes its voting laws and practices," said Holder.

In its filing in San Antonio, the Justice Department said that "in every redistricting cycle since 1970, courts have similarly found that one or more of Texas' statewide redistricting plans violated the voting guarantees of the Constitution or provisions of the Voting Rights Act."

A three-judge panel in San Antonio has been looking at Texas voting maps for state and congressional redistricting since 2011, when the court threw out boundaries drawn by a then-GOP supermajority in the statehouse.

An ensuing legal battle between the state and a coalition of minority rights groups upset the 2012 elections in Texas, delaying party primaries that ultimately used temporary maps drawn by the court.

Under the direction of GOP Gov. Rick Perry last month, the Legislature ratified those interim maps as permanent over the objection of Democrats, who still contend the maps are biased and underrepresent minorities.

On Thursday, Perry called the Obama administration's actions an "end-run around the Supreme Court."

Last year, a federal court in Washington, D.C., found that Texas lawmakers had intentionally discriminated against minorities in drawing political maps and that the state's voter ID law would disenfranchise minority voters. But the Supreme Court decision throwing out part of the Voting Rights Act removed the power of that court to stop those measures from going into effect.

Minority groups asked the three-judge panel in San Antonio last month to adopt the findings of the District of Columbia court and require Texas to submit all proposed voting-law changes for prior court review. Holder's announcement places the Justice Department on the San Antonio minority groups' side.

Last month, the Supreme Court effectively gutted the part of the Voting Rights Act under which all or parts of 15 mainly Southern states had been required to submit all voting changes for approval from Washington before they could take effect.

The decision, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, said it was no longer fair to subject those jurisdictions to strict federal monitoring based on data that was at least 40 years old. Such extraordinary intrusion on state power to conduct elections could be justified only by current conditions, Roberts said.

"There is no denying, however, that the conditions that originally justified these measures no longer characterize voting in the covered jurisdictions," the chief justice said.

 

Comments

coasterfan

Republicans are so cute when they try to accuse Democrats of being racist. Sorry, but that is the one word that best describes the Republican Party. Guess you haven't quite figured out why you have such a huge problem attracting minority voters and young voters. Those under age 30 aren't haters, and have no use for someone who thinks that way.

Begone, GOP Dinosaurs! Get back to 1950 while you still have a chance. And say hi to Mitt when you get there....

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

To be fair there is a vast number of the under-30 crowd that believe the Democrat Party is just as ignorant and destructive. I don't say this in support of the Republican Party.

4shizzle

... the under-30 crowd ...

.......................Then who do they think is good? Link?

2cents

(Those under age 30 aren't haters, and have no use for someone who thinks that way.)

They will vote for those that will not give away their chance to move forward in life with their hard work and dedication. My 19 yo daughter and her friends voted for Romney , not because they liked all he wanted like not enjoying his opinion on a woman's health but they were tired of seeing Obo giving away their opportunity to those who choose not to do anything. In a way they were voting down Socialism.

EZOB

Coasterfan,
God made the choice whether I was to be cute or ugly. I made the choice to educate myself and not be stupid. At my age I really don't care who gets elected anymore. There are so many uneducated people anymore it's impossible for them to catch up in the little time I have left. I've made sure my children were educated and we'll always get along better than average. The majority of Democrats live in poverty and far more Democrats are below the poverty level than republicans. If this is the level you choose to live, so be it. Myself, I like a good steak or lobster once in awhile and I can afford it (no food stamps).

4shizzle

Millionares probably look down their noses at you.

deertracker

I wonder if the person preparing that steak and lobster receives food stamps! Maybe they dropped it on the floor just before serving it to you! Never know!

donutshopguy

deer,

So your implying people on food stamps are are jealous of those who worked hard , saved and made a better life for themselves?

The Big Dog's back

How did you get that out of what he said? Are you Paul Deen, Paula's brother?

grumpy

Dropping a steak or lobster on the floor before serving it means that the preparer thinks the world of the one receiving it? Do you think the state has regulations preventing doing that? Do you even think before typing your drivel?

The Big Dog's back

It's a Libertarian restaurant. No regulations, no rules. ROFLMAO.

grumpy

No customers when they treat them that way. The server would not have his job and no union would be there to say he has rights to a job, no matter what. ROFLMAO

2cents

(I wonder if the person preparing that steak and lobster receives food stamps!)

Want to hear a funny one, last fall while dining in Cleveland we had this black server woman, I do not profile and like everyone that treats me equal. But this gal just never smiled, she was just going through a routine and something struck me uncomfortable but I did not know what it was. We left, she was tipped my typical 20% and the next morning Chase called me to let me know that a number of charges were put on my card after 2AM. Now I profiled because they bought online rap music, Wally world gift cards and other non delivered stuff. I guess she figured this white dude was all that eating Vietnamese food full of MSG. I called her Asian boss/owner who barely spoke English and had no clue what I was saying. Oh well, that place will be closed soon!

EZOB

4shizzle,
I'M not even close to being a millionaire. I don't owe anyone and only bought things that were needed, no impulse buying. My house mortgage was paid off years ago but I don't totally own my home. The real estate taxes are more than I paid on my mortgage payments. Yes, I do know quite a few rich people but I get along with all "walks of life". To keep what sanity I have left, I avoid discussions with Far-Left Liberals because they are easily confused with facts.

The Big Dog's back

He said millionaires look down their noses at you.

4shizzle

Loss of reading comprehension is the first sign of insanity.

Minuteman

You've got one side trying to keep uninformed and clueless voters away, and the other side trying to let their voters vote without ID, as many times as they like. Both of them are wrong.

EZOB

I'll give you the major problem with the debt and economy. All of us know the real answer to the question I' about to ask! Explain to me how we can expect anything different fro people that spend tens of millions to get jobs that pay thousands? This covers almost 100% of all politicians. Tell me one this doesn't apply to and I'll give them my vote.

The Big Dog's back

Marcy Kaptur.

grumpy

What a sad kool aide drinker for a sad political party you are.

The Big Dog's back

He asked, I delivered. Once again, you don't accept the truth.

grumpy

You "delivered" a joke.

2cents

Oh god, stop swearing in the paper please.

donutshopguy

Dog,

Marcy Kaptur has travelled the world this year on official junkets. What advantage has that been to her constituents ? Don't see any more jobs? Don't see any improvement in that mysterious "living wage" ? She is part of the 1%. Sorry to break your bubble.

The Big Dog's back

She has a net worth of 625,000. Not in the 1%.

Minuteman

Everyone knows what this is about. The fraudulent vote. Everyone has a photo ID, they just don't want to have to show it and get caught voting numerous times.

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