U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, stung by the Supreme Court’s decision gutting federal power to pre-emptively strike at state voting laws, opened a new front in the Obama administration’s fight against election laws it views as discriminatory. The first target in what Holder says may become a multi-state effort is Texas. In the face of strong objections from the state’s top officials, the Justice Department will ask a federal court to require Texas to obtain approval from the government or a federal court before making voting-law changes. “It’s very significant, but not at all surprising,” Dan Tokaji, a law professor who focuses on election law and voting rights at Ohio State University’s Moritz College Law. “It’s best viewed as a Band-Aid rather than an inoculation, which is what the old regime was.”
Holder, the country’s first black attorney general who aides say was deeply concerned about the court’s ruling, has been telegraphing that the administration will use all remaining tools to push back on state laws it finds discriminatory.
His action yesterday puts the Justice Department behind a lawsuit filed by civil rights groups in federal court in Texas and comes as several states are responding to the high courts ruling with proposals that would add voting restrictions.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said in a conference call with reporters that the state would fight Holder’s effort. State officials announced shortly after the Supreme Court ruling that a state law imposing new identification requirements for voters would take effect. The North Carolina legislature is also moving forward with new voter identification laws.