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Holder Seeks Continued Oversight Of Texas Election Laws

Attorney General Eric Holder speaks at the National Urban League annual conference on Thursday in Philadelphia.
Matt Rourke
Associated Press
Attorney General Eric Holder speaks at the National Urban League annual conference on Thursday in Philadelphia.

Attorney General Eric Holder says the Justice Department will ask a federal court to subject Texas to the same kind of scrutiny that was required of it by a section of the Voting Rights Act struck down last month by the Supreme Court.

In Shelby County v. Holder, the high court rescinded Section 5 of the 1965 act, which required several states including Texas that had a history of voter discrimination to get "pre-clearance" from the federal government before changing their election laws.

In a speech in Philadelphia on Thursday to the National Urban League, Holder said Justice would ask for Texas to be continue to undergo "a pre-clearance regime similar to the one required by Section 5".

"This is the department's first act to protect voting rights following the Shelby County decision, but it will not be our last," Holder said. "Even as Congress considers updates to the Voting Rights Act in light of the Supreme Court's ruling, we plan in the meantime to utilize the law's remaining sections to ensure that the voting rights of all citizens are protected."

NPR's Carrie Johnson reports that last year a Washington, D.C. court found evidence of widespread discrimination in the state's overhaul of its election map. The map was deemed unfair to Hispanic voters.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry accused the Obama administration of "utter contempt for our country's system of checks and balances, not to mention the U.S. Constitution."

As The Wall Street Journal writes:

"The fight over voting rights is intensely partisan. Democrats accuse Republicans of trying to dilute and discourage voting by minority groups, who tend to favor Democrats. Republicans say they are trying to prevent voter fraud, particularly through the passage of more stringent voter-identification requirements."

When the Voting Rights Act was first passed in 1965, the pre-clearance provisions were meant as a temporary measure that would expire after five years, but in 1970, according to the Department of Justice, Congress recognized the continuing need for the special provisions.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.