Holder vows to challenge voter suppression efforts after Supreme Court ruling.
This post originally appeared at OccupyDemocrats
By Justin Acuff
Attorney General Eric Holder has made clear his intentions to use all methods at federal disposal to fight discriminatory voting laws in red states. Cases like this used to be easy — under Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, the Justice Department could challenge voting laws in federal court from states or parts of states with a history of discrimination. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court struck down Section 4, so it can no longer be used. Eric Holder is instead attempting to use Section 3 to fight the voter suppression tactics in a more roundabout way. The Washington Post reports:
Holder announced he was using Section 3, a different part of the Voting Rights Act that was left standing, to ask a federal court to re-subject Texas to pre-clearance. It is a less efficient way to achieve what the pre-gutted act allowed automatically, but it is the best that can be done for now. It would be better still if Congress reinstated a revised version of Section 4. In the meantime, the hope is to limit the damage of the high court’s folly — and perhaps give other states pause before they rush into new discriminatory schemes.
“This is the department’s first action to protect voting rights following the [Supreme Court] decision, but it will not be our last,” Holder declared. His department is likely to move this week against the Texas voter-identification law and eventually to go to court against other states that pass comparable statutes.
At the National Urban League Annual Conference, Holder stated that, “My colleagues and I are determined to use every tool at our disposal to stand against discrimination wherever it is found. But let me be very clear: these remaining tools are no substitute for legislation that must fill the void left by the Supreme Court’s decision. This issue transcends partisanship, and we must work together. We cannot allow the slow unraveling of the progress that so many, throughout history, have sacrificed so much to achieve.”
He went on to explain the importance of equality with relevance to the economy and the future of America:
“Moving forward, we know that our success will depend upon our ability to grow our country’s economy not from the top down – but from the middle out. It will be predicated on the strength of a resurgent middle class – as more Americans gain access to educational and job opportunities, purchase homes they can call their own, begin to save for retirement, and experience the benefits of affordable health care when they need it. As the President made clear, leaders from Congress, the Administration, and the private sector must work together to look beyond the challenges of the moment, to expand economic empowerment, to lay the groundwork for a brighter future, and – ultimately – to restore the American dream. The needs of the American people are great; the time for partisan gamesmanship is over.
Just as it always has been, the American dream is founded – today – on the fundamental promise of equal protection, and equal justice under law, for everyone in this country. And each of us must seize this moment to rededicate ourselves to the legacy that inspired the National Urban League’s founding – and which has driven the progress of the last century: the long, and ongoing, struggle for civil rights.”
Governor Perry has responded to the positions taken by Holder and the Obama administration, releasing a statement saying, “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.”
Perry’s distinct lack of intelligence is on display in that statement, showing that he doesn’t understand that the Supreme Court hasn’t quite said these laws are right — only that they can’t be challenged on the same basis. Holder is attempting another legal route while waiting — hopefully, and doubtfully — for Congress to pass new legislation protecting equal voting rights and access to the polls.
North Carolina has recently passed an incredibly strict voter suppression law that is likely to be challenged by the Justice Department as well. From The LA Times:
A voter ID law passed during the final hours of the state’s legislative session Thursday night would require voters to show government-issued ID cards. It also would shorten early voting by a week, eliminate same-day voter registration during early voting, allow any registered voter to challenge another voter’s eligibility and eliminate popular pre-registration initiatives for high school students.
The bill also would end straight-ticket voting, the practice of voting for every candidate of a single party, begun in 1925 and popular among Democratic voters. It also would prohibit counties from extending voting hours on election day in response to long lines.
The measure passed hours after U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. said the Justice Department would challenge a similar voter ID law in Texas. Holder indicated that the department may pursue legal challenges to voter ID laws in other states, including North Carolina.
A legal battle between the Justice Department and the various states enacting discriminatory so-called “Voter ID” laws will prove difficult in any case, however. Without Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, it becomes quite a bit harder to get these laws struck down in court:
“The legislation in North Carolina has become much more than a voter ID bill. It has become a full-scale assault on voting,” said Denise Lieberman, senior attorney for Advancement Project, a nonprofit civil rights organization founded in 1999 by civil rights lawyers in Los Angeles and Washington. “The vast range of restrictions, cumulatively, create a tremendous chilling effect. … It paints a very distressing and dismal picture for voters in North Carolina.”
A federal lawsuit would have to clear a high bar, legal experts said. If the bill passes, it could be challenged under a section of the Voting Rights Act that prohibits intentional discrimination in voting. But there’s never been a successful challenge brought under this section of the law, Hasen said. (Source)
That doesn’t mean it’ll be impossible, though. There’s clear evidence of discrimination, as many Republican politicians have openly admitted that these laws make it difficult for Democratic constituents to get to the polls. Furthermore, there is very little established evidence of voter fraud, and certainly not in numbers high enough to prevent thousands of legitimate voters from exercising the most vital right they have.
Here’s a video explaining the legal battle facing the Justice Department:
Image credit/Flickr hjl