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Eric Holder’s Justice Department Takes On Texas Voting Rights

Attorney General Eric Holder - John Gress, Getty Images
Attorney General Eric Holder – John Gress, Getty Images

The United States Justice Department has asked a San Antonio-based federal court to require Texas to seek prior approval from the federal government before making any additional changes to election laws.

The DOJ’s actions come after the United States Supreme Court struck down a portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The 5-4 decision invalidated Section 5 of the Act, which required that certain states get approval from the Justice Department before changing election rules.

DOJ head Eric Holder has vowed to use Section 3 of the Act to ensure Texas will still be subject to preclearance. Section 3 requires that a court must find evidence of intentional discrimination before requiring preclearance. The DOJ is seeking a 10-year preclearance period.

Texas Governor Rick Perry issued a statement in response to the DOJ’s actions on Thursday:

Once again, the Obama Administration is demonstrating utter contempt for our country’s system of checks and balances, not to mention the U.S. Constitution. This end-run around the Supreme Court undermines the will of the people of Texas, and casts unfair aspersions on our state’s common-sense efforts to preserve the integrity of our elections process.

The DOJ cannot directly intervene in Texas election decisions, but it is filing a “statement of interest” in support of private groups that have filed lawsuits against proposed changes to voting maps and laws in the state. Last month, the Texas Legislature ratified interim voting maps as permanent despite Democratic objections.

Holder has also vowed to stop the State of Texas from implementing a 2011 voter ID law.

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