The Obama administration’s interventions last week in two major voting rights cases gave a big boost to efforts to challenge restrictive voting laws in two crucial swing states. But they did something else, too: They offered more evidence that Attorney General Eric Holder is determined to match his tough talk about the need to protect voting with action. Indeed, when Holder steps down as the nation’s top law enforcement officer—which could happen as soon as this year—his commitment to ensuring access to the ballot for all eligible Americans could stand out as his most important achievement. In his rhetoric, Holder has left little doubt that he sees the issue of voting rights as a defining moral question for the country, raising the topic again and again in speeches and interviews over the last few years . “This comes down, in some ways, to a fundamental question of who we are—who we are as a people,” he told The New Yorker for a profile published in February. “The history of this nation has always been to try to expand the franchise. Whether it’s freed slaves, women, young people, we’ve always found ways to make it easier to vote…To turn our backs on that history is inconsistent with who we say we are as a nation.” And for a man with a reputation as a cautious and soft-spoken bureaucrat, he’s often used surprisingly pointed language to call out Republicans for making voting harder.
“There are some who are coming from a good faith perspective,” Holder told msnbc in a January interview, referring to Republican supporters of voter ID laws. “But I think many are using it for partisan advantage,” in order to “depress the vote of particular groups of people.”
He’s even called Texas’s voter ID law a “poll tax,” deliberately linking it to the now unconstitutional Jim Crow tactics aimed at keeping blacks from voting.
The AG lowered the boom last Wednesday when it filed two separate friend-of-the-court briefs. One argued against Wisconsin’s voter ID law, already struck down by a federal judge and currently on appeal. The other, technically a “statement of interest,” went after Ohio’s recent cuts to early voting, which also eliminated same-day registration. Civil rights groups are challenging both measures as racially discriminatory under the Voting Rights Act.
The interventions followed up on lawsuits brought by DoJ last year against Texas’s ID law, and North Carolina’s sweeping voting law. All four cases have used a part of the VRA, known as Section 2, that has rarely in the past been used to challenge major statewide voting laws—potentially expanding the boundaries of federal voting protections.
Full Article: Eric Holder goes to the mat for voting rights | MSNBC.