U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced Thursday that the Obama administration would seek to require Texas to clear any changes it makes to voting procedures with the federal government. This policy comes after a Supreme Court ruling last month that struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act, a 1965 law that sought to prevent voting discrimination.
Holder called the court's ruling "deeply disappointing," and said that the law was still needed to address inequalities in the election system. The court struck down Section 4 of the act, which determined the formula used to dictate which states and jurisdictions were subject to Section 5. Also known as the "preclearance provision," Section 5 requires some jurisdictions to get federal permission before changing election laws.
Holder said that although preclearance was designed to stop discriminatory voting practices during the Civil Rights Movement, it is clear that places like Texas have not yet reached a point where such laws are no longer necessary. The attorney general called for a bipartisan effort in Congress to restore and strengthen the Voting Rights Act, and also said the department was taking steps to enforce the parts of the law that were not affected by the June Supreme Court ruling:
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 … 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.
The Supreme Court found Section 4 of the law to be unconstitutional because it did not hold all states to the same standards in deciding which would be required to seek preclearance for voting changes. Opponents of the law said it was no longer fair to subject areas of the country that were guilty of discriminatory voting procedures in 1965 to continue seeking permission from the federal government, and said progress had been made to end attempts at disenfranchisement.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry has not yet released a statement regarding Holder's announcement, but state Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott tweeted that he would fight "Obama's effort to control our elections."
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