The Obama administration has every right to challenge Texas’ unilateral adoption of new voting laws, a top Republican argued Thursday. Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) said the Voting Rights Act authorizes the Justice Department to seek a court order requiring states to get federal approval before implementing new election procedures, as Attorney General Eric Holder said he will do Thursday in the case of Texas. Holder’s announcement drew howls from Texas Republicans, who are accusing the DOJ of trampling states’ rights and ignoring June’s Supreme Court decision to eliminate a central part of the VRA. But Sensenbrenner, who as head of the House Judiciary Committee in 2006 championed the last VRA reauthorization, suggested those critics have misread his law. “The department’s actions are consistent with the Voting Rights Act,” Sensenbrenner said Thursday in an email.
Although the Supreme Court scrapped the law’s Section 4 coverage formula, Sensenbrenner noted, it did nothing to preclude legal action against voting precincts in cases of alleged racial discrimination, as authorized in Section 2.
Indeed, by eliminating Section 4 and leaving the other provisions intact, Sensenbrenner says the court has set the stage for a spike in legal challenges to state and local voting laws.
“Increased litigation will be one of the major consequences of the court’s decision as courts will have to litigate more allegations of voter discrimination under Section 2 and whether jurisdictions should be ‘bailed-in’ to preclearance coverage,” he said.