Justice Department wants Texas to get federal OK for voting changes

July 25, 2013 at 6:37 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, July 25 (UPI) -- U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Thursday he will ask a federal judge to "subject Texas to a pre-clearance regime" before the state changes voting rules.

The U.S. Supreme Court, ruling in a challenge brought by Shelby County, Ala., last month invalidated a section of the Voting Rights Act requiring states with histories of racial discrimination in their voting laws to seek pre-clearance, either from the Justice Department of from the courts, before changing their voting laws.

Holder, in a speech Thursday at the National Urban League Annual Conference in Philadelphia, said the Justice Department request regarding Texas would be its "first action to protect voting rights following the Shelby County decision, but it will not be our last."

"And today I am announcing that the Justice Department will ask a federal court in Texas to subject the State of Texas to a pre-clearance regime similar to the one required by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act," Holder said.

The move announced by Holder comes after several southern states, including Texas, rushed to change their voting rules following the Supreme Court decision, The New York Times reported.

"This request to 'bail in' the state -- and require it to obtain 'pre-approval' from either the Department or a federal court before implementing future voting changes -- is available under the Voting Rights Act when intentional voting discrimination is found," Holder said Thursday. "Based on the evidence of intentional racial discrimination that was presented last year in the redistricting case, Texas vs. Holder -- as well as the history of pervasive voting-related discrimination against racial minorities that the Supreme Court itself has recognized -- we believe that the State of Texas should be required to go through a preclearance process whenever it changes its voting laws and practices.

"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," he said. "My colleagues and I are determined to use every tool at our disposal to stand against such discrimination wherever it is found."

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