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Eric Holder Says Justice Department Will Go to Court to Subject Texas to ‘Preclearance Regime’ of Voting Rights Act

Tim Boyles, Getty Images

This morning, United States Attorney General Eric Holder singled out Texas at an address in Philadelphia. Specifically, concerning the enforcement of the Voting Rights Act and alleged racism. The remarks were made at the National Urban League Annual Conference.

Concerning the State of Texas, General Holder said, “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.”

Provisions of the Voting Rights Act were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year.  The high court’s ruling also paved the way for Texas’ Voter ID law to take affect.

Richard H. Pildes, a New York University professor who specializes in election law issues, told the New York Times the move was “a dramatically significant moment in the next phase of the Voting Rights Act’s development” after the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Pildes also told The Times,

“If this strategy works it will become a way of partially updating the Voting Rights Act through the courts. The Justice Department is trying to get the courts to step into the role the Justice Department played before the Shelby County decision. The Voting Rights Act has always permitted this, in some circumstances, but this strategy wasn’t used much. If this approach works, it will help update the Voting Rights Act even without Congressional action.”

During his speech, Holder also said he is going, ” … to shift resources to the enforcement of a number of federal voting laws not affected by the Supreme Court’s decision – including the remaining provisions of the Voting Rights Act, prohibiting voting discrimination based on race, color, or language.”

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is expected to release a statement concerning Holder’s speech later today.

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