In the coming weeks, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. is expected to announce that the Justice Department is using other sections of the Voting Rights Act to bring lawsuits or take other legal action to prevent states from implementing certain laws, including requirements to present certain kinds of identification in order to vote. The department is also expected to try to force certain states to get approval, or “pre-clearance,” before they can change their election laws.
“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 subject states to pre-clearance as necessary,” Holder said in a speech Thursday morning in Philadelphia. “My colleagues and I are determined to use every tool at our disposal to stand against such discrimination wherever it is found.”
Holder announced that, in a first step, the department will support a lawsuit in Texas that was brought by a coalition of Democratic legislators and civil rights groups against the state’s redistricting plan.
Holder said he is asking a federal judge to require Texas to submit all voting law changes to the Justice Department for approval for a ten-year period because of its history of discrimination.
“It’s a pretty clear sign that a lawsuit against the Texas voter-ID law is also on the way,” said Matthew Miller, a former Justice Department spokesman. Miller said Justice may also sue North Carolina if that state passes a new voter ID law.
The Obama administration had opposed the Texas voter-ID law signed in 2011 by Gov. Rick Perry (R.), saying it endangered minority voting rights. Texas was one of eight states that passed voter-ID laws.
Supporters of the measures, which were signed by seven Republican governors and one independent, said that requiring voters to show specific photo IDs would prevent voter fraud. But critics of the laws said that they could hurt turnout among minority voters and others.
Because of Texas’s history of discrimination, the voter-ID law had to be cleared by the Justice Department. The department blocked the law, saying it would endanger minority voting rights. Texas sued the Justice Department, leading to a week-long trial last summer.
Last August, the U.S. District Court in Washington blocked the law from going into effect, ruling that the legislation would impose “strict, unforgiving burdens” on poor, minority voters.