The Obama administration announced Thursday that it will legally contest a series of laws around the country as part of an aggressive campaign to fight a recent Supreme Court ruling that it says could reduce minority voting. The Justice Department filed its first challenge Thursday, asking a judge to require Texas to seek permission from the federal government before making voting changes because of the state’s history of discrimination. Several states in the South and Southwest could face similar lawsuits. “This is the department’s first action to protect voting rights following the (Supreme Court) decision, but it will not be our last,” Attorney General Eric Holder said at a National Urban League conference in Philadelphia on Thursday. “My colleagues and I are determined to use every tool at our disposal to stand against discrimination wherever it is found.” Civil rights groups and African-American lawmakers welcomed the decision, as did the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP.
They had urged President Barack Obama to wade into the issue after a divided court struck down a centerpiece of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. It required some states to receive federal approval for electoral revisions. Some supporters said they were surprised at how quickly the administration intervened.
But Texas officials, from Austin to Washington, blasted the decision, accusing the Obama administration of bullying the state for political reasons.
Gov. Rick Perry, R-Texas, said, “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.”
“This decision has nothing to do with protecting voting rights and everything to do with advancing a partisan political agenda,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said after Holder’s speech.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is running for governor, accused Obama officials of “political theater” and intervening solely to help Democratic candidates and hurt five Hispanic Republicans in the 2014 Texas elections for the legislature and Congress.