The Justice Department is preparing to take fresh legal action in a string of voting rights cases across the nation, U.S. officials said, part of a new attempt to blunt the impact of a Supreme Court ruling that the Obama administration has warned will imperil minority representation. The decision to challenge state officials marks an aggressive effort to continue policing voting rights issues and follows a ruling by the court last month that invalidated a critical part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The Justices threw out a part of the act that required certain states with a history of discrimination to be granted Justice Department or court approval before making voting law changes. In the coming weeks, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. is expected to announce that the Justice Department is using other sections of the Voting Rights Act to bring lawsuits or take other legal action to prevent states from implementing certain laws, including requirements to present certain kinds of identification in order to vote. The department is also expected to try to force certain states to get approval, or “pre-clearance,” before they can change their election laws.
“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,” Holder said in a speech Thursday morning in Philadelphia. “My colleagues and I are determined to use every tool at our disposal to stand against such discrimination wherever it is found.”
Holder announced that, in a first step, the department will support a lawsuit in Texas that was brought by a coalition of Democratic legislators and civil rights groups against the state’s redistricting plan.
Holder said he is asking a federal judge to require Texas to submit all voting law changes to the Justice Department for approval for a ten-year period because of its history of discrimination.