The U.S. Justice Department, despite a recent Supreme Court ruling, is increasing its policing of states with a history of discrimination, announcing Thursday that it is subjecting Texas to "preclearance." This means the state will need to get federal approval before making changes to any voting procedures.
Attorney General Eric Holder made the announcement in a speech at the National Urban League annual conference in Philadelphia. What this means is that the Obama administration will support a lawsuit brought by Democratic legislators and civil rights groups against Texas’ redistricting plan.
Last month, the Supreme Court, in Shelby County vs. Holder, struck down key portions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that require certain states (chiefly Southern) with a history of discrimination seek approval before making changes.
Holder said, given evidence of intentional racial discrimination presented last year in the redistricting plan case coupled with a “history of pervasive voting-related discrimination” against racial minorities, Texas should be required to undergo preclearance procedures whenever it changes its voting laws and practices.
“This is the department’s first action to protect voting rights following the Shelby County [Alabama] decision, but it will not be our last,” Holder said. “Even as Congress considers updates to the Voting Rights Act in light of the court’s ruling, we plan, in the meantime, to fully utilize the law’s remaining sections to ensure that the voting rights of all American citizens are protected.”
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The attorney general added that he and his colleagues are prepared to use whatever tools remain at their disposal to fight discrimination.
“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,” he said. “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. And, in our broader efforts, we will continue to look far beyond America’s ballot boxes -- to our schools, military bases, and border areas; our immigrant communities, our criminal justice system, and even our workplaces -- in order to advance the fight for equality and against injustice.”