Eric Holder Takes the Fight for Voting Rights to Texas

After a key provision in the Voting Rights Act was struck down by the Supreme Court in June, the Obama Administration turned to another tactic to seek pre-clearance for changes to election laws, starting with the Lone Star State

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Eric Gay / AP

Marta Rangel Medel vacuums the stage in preparation for the Texas Democratic Party election watch party, in Austin, Nov. 6, 2012. Attorney General Eric Holder says Texas is the first place that he will intervene to defend against what he calls attacks on the voting rights of minorities,

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder strode onto the stage before the National Urban League on Thursday and announced his intention to take the fight for voting rights — both literally and figuratively — to Texas. The subsequent Republican sputterings and wistful Democratic musings fed the faithful in both parties. Republican leaders, firmly ensconced in power, scolded an intrusive federal government to the delight of the party’s conservative base, while Democrats saw Holder as a defender of the emerging Hispanic vote that would carry the party back to the promised land. But the announcement also gave sustenance to an army of lawyers engaged in what has become a never-ending legal battle over election laws and political map-making.

Holder’s announcement was prompted by last month’s U.S. Supreme Court decision, which effectively removed a vital provision of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA). The provision had required 16 jurisdictions, including several former Confederate states like Texas, to seek pre-clearance from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) before making changes to election laws and redistricting maps. The attorney general called the court’s reasoning in the Shelby County v. Holder case “flawed”, and with little chance that a divided Congress would address the issue, the administration pledged to seek other remedies. Holder announced he would revive legal battles made moot by the high court decision by turning to other provisions in the VRA that allow plaintiffs to present specific evidence of minority disenfranchisement to the courts as a step to pre-clearance.

(MORE: DOJ Makes First Move Against States After Voting Rights Ruling)

In Texas, following Holder’s announcement, the DOJ claimed clear evidence of discrimination both in the past and present, and asked a federal court to impose at least 10 years of required pre-clearance. This new approach will be tested — perhaps appropriately given the level of political rhetoric — in a San Antonio federal courtroom just blocks from the famous shrine to Texas liberty, the Alamo, where a three-judge panel has been grappling for over two years with the redrawing of Texas’s congressional and legislative maps following the 2010 census. Holder also pledged to block a Texas voter ID law passed in 2011 that state Attorney General Greg Abbott had green-lighted immediately following the Supreme Court’s Shelby County ruling

By choosing Texas, the largest and most Republican of all the states, the Obama Administration is signaling to its base and key minority constituencies that it is doing “everything possible” to uphold the VRA, says Mark P. Jones, Rice University political scientist. The effort is also a morale-booster for a party lost in the Texas wilderness. After decades of Democratic dominance, the emergence of the Republican Party in Texas in the early 1990s set the stage for a series of political death matches over redistricting. With an ever-strengthening state party, Republican legislators have dominated the political map-making efforts, bolstering Republican numbers in the state legislature and Congress.

The Texas redistricting fight has followed a “pernicious pattern,” says Dallas lawyer Michael Li, whose blog has a loyal following among political junkies and observers of the process. Li points out that the two-decade (and counting) fight has cost the state millions in legal fees and court costs, and has resulted in a raft of redrawn maps and voter confusion. Not to mention the 2005 criminal prosecution of former Republican Congressman Tom DeLay, whose effort to boost Republican ranks led to a conviction on money-laundering charges. (He remains free, as his legal appeal is still pending.)

(MORE: Viewpoint: Voting-Rights Decision Spells the End of Fair Elections)

After last month’s Supreme Court ruling, a shift in legal tactics for the Texas case was expected. Three days before Holder’s speech, the plaintiffs — among them the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC,) the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the Texas Democratic Party — filed papers in San Antonio urging the court to look at the alternative approach to pre-clearance later laid by Holder. After the attorney general’s speech, the DOJ filed a statement of support with the San Antonio court endorsing the new approach.

But even though insiders saw this coming, that didn’t stop a parade of Texas politicians from voicing their outrage or support of Holder’s efforts. Opponents quickly laid the blame at President Barack Obama’s feet. “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,” Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who has not always been a vocal supporter of the country’s highest court, said in a statement. “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.”

Supporters, including Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro, twin brother of San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro — the man much-touted as the Democrat who could lead his party back to power at the state level — were delighted at Holder’s move. “Today’s decision by the Department of Justice upholds the rights of all Texans to cast their vote freely,” Congressman Castro said in a statement, adding: “This decision also gives Congress time to come to a consensus over how to move forward and ensure that no American is subject to the narrow and discriminatory agenda of partisan politicians.”

But congressional consensus isn’t expected, most political observers say, given the state of play in Washington. Instead, Holder’s move could give opponents of the VRA cover. They could point to the availability of other approaches to pre-clearance within the law, as detailed by the attorney general, and claim there’s no need to revisit the VRA.

(MORE: High Court Rolls Back the Voting Rights Act of 1965)

Holder also indicated that he will take aim at the Texas voter ID law, passed by a conservative state legislature along with redistricting maps in 2011. The law calls for ID checks at the polls and provides for state i.d. cards issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) for any voter who does not have one of the mandated forms of identification that include a driver’s license or other acceptable photo i.d. The law is based on a similar Indiana law that has passed Supreme Court muster, but opponents point to Texas’ vast geography and the lack of official DPS offices in some parts of the state as a barrier to voting rights.  It is an issue that resonates with both Republican and Democratic political base voters.

Abbott, a vocal supporter of the law and the likely Republican candidate for governor, tweeted: “I’ll fight #Obama’s effort to control our elections & I’ll fight against cheating at ballot box.”

After Holder’s announcement, Abbott claimed the U.S. Attorney General was “sowing racial divide.” In an interview with the Dallas Morning News on Thursday, Abbott suggested the plaintiffs in the redistricting lawsuit were biased. “It is racial discrimination against Hispanic Republicans because there were at least four or five Hispanic Republicans that were tossed from office because of the way they drew the lines in order to help Democrats,” Abbott told the News. He also said that the Texas voter ID law is popular, even among Hispanic voters, which isn’t far from the truth, according to Jones, who says that polls do show that voter ID isn’t a huge issue among Texas Hispanics.

But even if the voter ID law does hold, legal observers predict it’s likely to delayed by a court intervention. As for the redistricting, if the three-judge panel decides side-step the new pre-clearance argument and give the current maps — which, with only a few minor changes, reflect maps the panel drew up for the 2012 elections after the 2011 maps were tossed by federal court — the go-ahead, the new approach being pushed by Holder and the Obama Administration is likely to be pursued in other jurisdictions — North Carolina is thought to be next in the crosshairs. Either way, the fight is likely to be long and cumbersome. The old pre-clearance approach was sweeping and broad, but this new “clunky” approach, as labeled by University of California law professor Rick Hasen, has yet to be adjudicated.

Ultimately, the new tactic touted by Attorney General Holder could end up before the Supreme Court. In their filings to the San Antonio panel, attorneys for the state of Texas laid out one argument that may have some resonance with the high court judges. They noted that the Supreme Court justices in the majority in the Shelby County v. Holder case commented that pre-clearance applies only to certain states and might result in the unequal, burdensome treatment of some states over others. “Don’t Mess With Texas” in a nutshell.

MORE: States Eye Voting Obstacles in Wake of High-Court Ruling

58 comments
wldy1005
wldy1005

This guy is still in office? He mislead congress and the public. If he thinks he can get away with that, who knows what he is capable of doing next. Its an abuse of trust and power of the public. He needs to be removed from his position. The sooner the better.

MichelleRoyal
MichelleRoyal like.author.displayName 1 Like

Here are the facts regarding Texas voter ID:

600,000 -800,000 TX voters do not have the proper ID to vote

Hispanics 75% more likely not to have voter ID

No cost for voter ID but documents needed to acquire ID costs $22 which is considered a poll tax. 

Only 81 out of 254 TX counties have DMV office

Hispanics more likely to live in counties that do not have DMV office and also do not own cars.

If Obama detractors still want to call him racist after reading the impact TX voter ID's would have on the Hispanic vote then go right ahead. As a native Texan that cares about democracy, what the Attorney General did brings great relief.




sixtymile
sixtymile like.author.displayName 1 Like

What I don't understand is why we don't put an end to this travesty and establish:

1) a national identity system like every other modern industrialized nation.

2) national identity card as implicit voter id and voter registration.

3) Federal election holiday to improve access and turnout, and end voting-class discrimination for good.

Using voting laws to affect election outcomes is immoral and anti-democratic no matter what party does it.

dblument
dblument like.author.displayName 1 Like

Eric Holder is a bigger racist than Bull Conner ever was! Obama is a bigger racist than Holder. 

 Oh yeah, when the law doesnt suit, dont change it, argue in front of a Democrat party judge. We ar becoming a corrupt nation, with NO moral authority. The world is laughing at Obama. He is truly an "Amateur"

aztecian
aztecian

@dblument oh please what a bunch of drama.  it is unconstitutional to take the rights away or make it difficult for the poor and elderly to vote.  you know...the last 150 years of racism in texas, now things are going to change!

dblument
dblument

@aztecian @dblument no drama, just the truth. 150 years of racism? So does Boston, and Mexico City-

 The poor and elderly are not mentioned in the constitution. We use i.d. to go to Costco, or the liquor store. Anyone not wanting to use id, needs to only cast a "challengeable" vote. 

pturner1976
pturner1976

Look. As a Republican and a patriot, I am absolutely against taking anyone's right to vote away from them. But the simple fact is.. I don't trust progressives not to cheat. Plain and simple, I do not trust you. Therefore, I demand verification of everyone equally under the law, black, white, progressive, conservative, every equally must show some kind of proof that they are who they say they are. I don't care if it is a piece of mail less than 30 days old. Simply show some proof of identity! It is not too much to ask. Why? Because I don't trust you not to cheat, and that is a good enough reason. I need none other.

paradoxicallyinadequate
paradoxicallyinadequate

Eric Holder should be in prison, why isn't "Time" reporting on THAT?  More race-baiting and division from the progressive "media", which calling these publications media is actually doing media a dis-service.

mrbomb13
mrbomb13

Interesting how TIME Magazine displays a photo that echoes the stereotypical image of a Latino being a building cleaner/sanitation worker.

Aren't we supposed to be discouraging stereotypes?  As a businessman, I can guarantee that minorities are incredibly hard-working, and are successful as team members, managers, and executives.

Shame on TIME for not showing images of successful minorities, and for playing up stereotypes just to attract readership.

united_we_stand
united_we_stand like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

Defying the Supreme Court to promote more racial division? Not surprised all all to see more criminal actions of this sort from Holder, the racist who thinks he's above the law. None of the bankers who put the country into bankruptcy have been touched, none of the politicians who violate the constitution behind our backs in the name of national security have been charged.  Holder investigates anyone and everyone for racism. Its such a convenient distraction from the wholesale looting and destruction of our nation

mdbrock
mdbrock like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

I don't care about the photoid.  I  just think that in order to vote you ought to present SOME  sort of ID. That doesnt seem too much to ask to me.

meandmyvoices
meandmyvoices like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

The flailing of a failed administration in its final days, nothing but grandstanding by an incompetent AG and his boss man Obama. So the Supreme Court ruling did not please the minions??

RonRonDoRon
RonRonDoRon like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

"the DOJ claimed clear evidence of discrimination"

I'm still waiting to hear what that evidence is. All I've read so far is that it has to do with gerrymandering in Texas redistricting. I don't think there is a state in the union, controlled by either party, that doesn't show evidence of gerrymandering. (Except for states where the population is too low to result in enough districts to provide opportunity for gerrymandering.)

How is the DOJ going to prove that the gerrymandering in TX is racially discriminatory? Particularly as the VRA allows, and sometimes requires, the creation of minority-majority districts? ( http://redrawingthelines.sitewrench.com/majorityminoritydistricts ) How does one sort out virtuous and vicious racial sorting in the districting process.

senor100
senor100 like.author.displayName 1 Like

It is pretty easy  to understand why the conservative majority on the court hates the Obama Administration.  Unless they find a ay to kill Anthony Kennedy, unlikely after DOMA, Holder will be smacked down yet again.

mrbomb13
mrbomb13 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

Hilarious article.  Simply, hilarious.

Attorney General Eric Holder's attempts to circumvent the Supreme Court's ruling will fall flat.  His efforts will be escalated back to that Supreme Court, and (by at least simple majority) they will be struck down.  That will be due to the latin legal principle of stare decisis - "let the decision stand."

Why TIME Magazine is portraying Holder as some fighter/savior on the part of minorities is not so much a mystery as it is a comedy.  Holder stands no chance of success, yet TIME and other like-minded outlets will go to the ends of the Earth to salvage his already-divisive image.

aztecian
aztecian like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

@mrbomb13 we all know texas is the biggest racist state in the union.  it has been overrun by rethuglicans (the party of the white man).  it is ridiculous to assume the tactics used do not infringe on non-white community and the elderly.  how said texas is...what a loser state.

mrbomb13
mrbomb13 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

@aztecian @mrbomb13 

Your reply to me is almost as hilarious as the article itself:

1) What possible proof can you present to show that Texas is (as you assert), "the biggest racist state in the union?"

2) What possible proof can you show that Texas has been over-run by Republicans (not your 'rethuglicans')?

3) If the Republicans are, "the party of the white man," and they are over-running Texas, than 1) why isn't the state's White population near 100%, and 2) how can the minority population still be growing as a share of the vote?  Your claim there makes no sense at all.

4) Please don't accuse me of being 'ridiculous' until you can present clear and convincing evidence that, "the tactics used" do infringe on voting rights.

Until you have proven the above to myself and other readers, you have zero right to label Texas as a "said" (sad...check your spelling next time) and "loser" state.  The only one that's losing here is your unsupported, emotionally/prejudicially-based argument.

meandmyvoices
meandmyvoices like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

@aztecian @mrbomb13 Have you ever been out of your hole in Brooklyn and down here? The elderly are all GOP and over 60$ of the Hispanics voted GOP the last election...so go pound some sand...troll

mdbrock
mdbrock like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

I rode the Hottern Hell Hundred bike race in Wichita Falls last year.  There were several black riders who all seemed cheerful and having a great time in a mob of white people.  All the various ethnic groups appeared to me to get along famously on the ride, deep in the heart of cowboy country.

dcacklam
dcacklam like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

@aztecian@mrbomb13 

Except of course, that the elderly are an overwhelmingly GOP demographic, especially in Texas...

Your argument falls short on that, just to start...

CharlesKirtley
CharlesKirtley like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 4 Like

BTW, crying bout redistricting is bogus. What about the white voters who live districts purposely drawn to elect black legislators. Don't they have rights? Why isn't Holder concerned with them?

meddevguy
meddevguy like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 4 Like

Stop calling it "Voting Rights" -- it is an election campaign effort by an Administration absolutely determined to use every power at their disposal to assure the Democrat party is dominant.

CharlesKirtley
CharlesKirtley like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 4 Like

Voting rights? What American citizen has been denied the vote?

MorphySmith
MorphySmith like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 5 Like

Interesting how Holder the Racist,  claims racism in his decision to go after TX. when there is NO proof.

rastaman44
rastaman44

No proof? maybe the rejection of the latest redistricting plan from the Texas legislature by the Federal court in SA? Just maybe LOL?

AdamSmith
AdamSmith like.author.displayName 1 Like

@MorphySmith  

 Interesting how the Texas legislature comes up with all these obstacles to poor people voting to avoid voter fraud, where there is NO proof voter fraud even exists.

meandmyvoices
meandmyvoices like.author.displayName 1 Like

@AdamSmith @MorphySmith Ahhhh the days of hanging out at the polling stations with baseball bats and malt liquor....where have they gone? In PA, Holder go and clean up your scandal with the BP voter intimidation....

RobertJeffreySchundler
RobertJeffreySchundler like.author.displayName 1 Like

"a three-judge panel has been grappling for over two years with the redrawing of Texas’s congressional and legislative maps following the 2010 census"

District Maps should not be made by people, they should be made by computers. Based on making maps on a set of values that both parties agree on. Like maps with the shortest distances to the center, based on roads. Then Socical Security should be required to inform each election district when a citizen dies or has a change of address, and the district should be required to remove the person from thier list. The Post Office should re required to do the same.

AdamSmith
AdamSmith

@RobertJeffreySchundler 

"Then Socical Security should be required to inform each election district when a citizen dies or has a change of address"

I've never informed SS of a change of address.  I don't think there's any agency of the government, not the Post Office nor the IRS, that has complete up to date address information.

Liberty46
Liberty46 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

This has nothing to do with race, and everything to do with politics, other than most blacks vote Democrat. All Democrat voters in Texas are less likely to have their canidate elected, because of gerrymandering. It is the exact same in Califorina and New York, where Republicans are less likely to have their vote result in their canidate being elected. Politicians of both parties participate in this activity to all Americans detriment. Mr. Holder is simply using the power of the Federal government to strengthen the Democrat party in Texas under the guise of helping minorities. Time's acceptance of this being a racial issue does nothing but poke a wound that is very slowly healing.

AdamSmith
AdamSmith like.author.displayName 1 Like

@Liberty46 

Nice attempt to skirt the issue.

There's a difference between  "less likely to have their vote result in their canidate being elected" and being "less likely to be allowed to vote" - and that is where Republicans and Southern states fall down.

If you can show me where a Democratically controlled state government has a policy that makes it more difficult for RICH people, or white people  (Republicans) to vote, I'd love to hear about.


Liberty46
Liberty46

I have lived in both the north and the south in eight different states, it is just as easy to vote in the north and the south, for everyone. The district lines, written by whichever party is in power, favor that party. If you are a Democrat in Texas, your vote statistically does not count as much as a Republicans, the same goes for a Republican in California. It's essentially the same everywhere, and it is hurting all of us by putting polititians in power that are almost impossible to vote out, and represent veiws that are further from the center in either party.

meddevguy
meddevguy like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

@AdamSmith @Liberty46 Aha "white people"! As long as we are dividing our country to get Democrat votes, how about "seniors", or "men", or "Italians", or "LGBT" -- C'mon, lets include all of the artificial divisions that are so effective in getting votes.

And Adam, thanks for your efforts to make sure some Americans believe that other Americans do not understand that what happens to one of us happens to all of us. Oh, forgot, this 200+ year success story needs "fundamental change", and little white lies (sorry for use of that now political term) to accomplish the greater good of the Utopia our President envisions.

Difficult to vote? You mean like me showing a government ID to get into a single polling place? Or efforts to stop military in active war zones from voting? 

jsmithcsa
jsmithcsa like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 5 Like

Holder is a fascist who, with Obama, rules by decree without regard for the Constitution. 

eagle11772
eagle11772 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 7 Like

There is NO U.S. Constitutional "right to vote".  And Holder, probably THE MOST corrupt U.S. Attorney general in history, IS a racist.  Let Texas do what they want.  It is their RIGHT to do so.

Sophlady
Sophlady like.author.displayName 1 Like

@eagle11772 There is absolutely a constitutionally protected right to vote. 


Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.


Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.


 That right applies regardless of race/ethnicity.  Texas and other Southern states were forced to comply with equal access to voting for all citizens by the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the law they are still fighting against.  

rastaman44
rastaman44 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

The right ot vote is afundamental right under the US constition, so ruled the SCOTUS.

eagle11772
eagle11772 like.author.displayName 1 Like

@rastaman44 WRONG !  SCOTUS  ruled just the OPPOSITE !  In Bush v. Gore, 531 U.S. 98 (2000), SCOTUS SPECIFICALLY ruled that there is NO U.S. Constitutional "right to vote".  From the SCOTUS Bush v. Gore decision: " The individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote for electors for the President of the United States unless and until the state legislature chooses a statewide election as the means to implement its power to appoint members of the Electoral College. U.S. Const., Art. II, §1. This is the source for the statement in McPherson v. Blacker146 U.S. 1, 35 (1892), that the State legislature’s power to select the manner for appointing electors is plenary; it may, if it so chooses, select the electors itself, which indeed was the manner used by State legislatures in several States for many years after the Framing of our Constitution."

Sophlady
Sophlady

@eagle11772 @rastaman44 


You are confusing selection of elections to the Electoral College with the fundamental right to cast a vote in local, state and federal elections.    


This is almost as ignorant as the claim of the foolish person who preceded you.  

AdamSmith
AdamSmith

@eagle11772 

Absolutely. In fact, all states should require tax returns to be presented, if you make less than $100,000 per year you should not be allowed to vote.

BTW, you might be interested in the definition of the word "corrupt":

"Having or showing a willingness to act dishonestly in return for money or personal gain."

Perhaps you can provide an example of how Holder is corrupt, according to what "corrupt" actually means.

You also might look at the Wikipedia page for List_of_federal_political_scandals_in_the_United_States

mydads1st
mydads1st like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

Texas re-districting maps and discussions must take into account the actual and proportional representation by ethnic groupings state-wide. Any and all changes must reflect and closely follow the census count by ethnic proportions. Some points of interest to be considered when re-districting is the only issue to be addressed is 39.5% of Texas' population is Hispanic/Latino. The black percentage is 11.5% and the white population is 44.3%. Reviewing the mix in specific portions of the state show Brownsville-Harlingen is 87.45 to 11.3% Hispanic/Latino to White populationCorpus Christi is 59.5% to 34%, Greater El Paso is 84.7% to 10.4% Hispanic/Latino to White population. Greater Laredo's ratio is 95.2% to 3.6% and McAllen-Edinburg-Mission is 91.7% to 6.9% Hispanic/Latino to White population. San Antonio ratio is 54.3% to 35.5% and Victoria is 47.9% to 44.7% Hispanic/Latino to White population. Those efforts collided head-on with the hard demographic reality that more than 90 percent of the state’s population growth over the prior decade came from Hispanics, African-Americans and Asian-Americans has impacted the ethnic demographics of Texas. Yet the Texas Legislature wants to keep the same old lines in place to hold onto control of the Legislature and Governor.

MorphySmith
MorphySmith like.author.displayName 1 Like

@mydads1st 

making up your own leftwing statistics based on Race and Party line Voting? Pathetic lib. like Holder and Obama.

LameDuck
LameDuck like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

@mydads1st Why do you add Black/Asian statistics to the Texas demographic--they are inconsequential.  And why do you just assume that all Hispanics are Dems?  B.S.!


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