Today, the Justice Department announced that they will use Section Two of the Voting Rights Act to sue Texas over a photo voter ID law that the federal government had once blocked under Section Five of the Voting Rights Act. It was blocked because both a Justice Department review and a federal district court hearing revealed that it would discriminate against hundreds of thousands of Latino-, Asian- and African-Americans in accessing their ballots. Texas immediately reinstated the voter ID law after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Section Five in June.
But Attorney General Eric Holder said today that the Supreme Court’s decision doesn’t solve the racial discriminatory problems found when he first blocked it. The Justice Department is suing so that Texas doesn’t enforce the voter ID law, and is also seeking to bail Texas in to federal preclearance under Section Three of the Voting Rights Act.
“We will not allow the Supreme Court’s recent decision to be interpreted as open season for states to pursue measures that suppress voting rights,” said Holder today. “The Department will take action against jurisdictions that attempt to hinder access to the ballot box, no matter where it occurs. We will keep fighting aggressively to prevent voter disenfranchisement. We are determined to use all available authorities, including remaining sections of the Voting Rights Act, to guard against discrimination and, where appropriate, to ask federal courts to require preclearance of new voting changes. “
Just last month, Holder, who will be one of the speakers at the August 24 march commemorating the 1963 March on Washington, announced plans to sue Texas over its redistricting plans. A federal court found intentional discrimination against Latino- and African-Americans in those plans last year. The Justice Department officially filed that lawsuit today in addition to the voter ID suit. They are seeking Section Three “bail-in” in both cases. Which means if Holder is succesful, Texas will have to return to submitting any election changes to the federal government for review to ensure they won’t result in racial disenfranchisement.
“The Department of Justice will use all the tools it has available to ensure that each citizen can cast a ballot free from impermissible discrimination,” said Jocelyn Samuels, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The right to the franchise is one of the most fundamental promises of American democracy.”