Thousands of demonstrators gathered outside the historic Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma, Alabama on Sunday to reprise one of the most powerful acts of the civil rights era. But memorializing history was not the only order of the day, attorney general Eric Holder said in a speech inside the church. In a message that appeared to be coordinated with a pre-recorded television interview by President Barack Obama, Holder attacked a 2013 supreme court decision that invalidated part of the Voting Rights Act as he called for a new national push for protections for minority voters. This year’s march over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Holder said, was a symbolic call to finish the work of the original demonstration of 7 March 1965, “Bloody Sunday”, which set the stage for the passage of the Voting Rights Act. Police estimated the crowd crossing the bridge on Sunday at 15-20,000.Full Article: Holder and Obama mark Selma events with call for voting rights protections | US news | The Guardian.
His mailbox has been stuffed with campaign letters, his TV plastered with political ads. But Brian Wright of Louisville won’t be casting a ballot Tuesday in Kentucky’s election. He’s among an estimated 7.4 percent of voting-age Kentuckians — including 22.3 percent of black voting-age residents — barred from casting ballots because of a felony conviction, a disenfranchisement rate that is third-highest in the nation, according to the Sentencing Project, a reform advocacy group. “I want to have a voice,” said Wright, 33, who pleaded guilty in 2008 to drug possession, receiving five years of probation and losing the ability to vote. Kentucky is one of only four states where all felons permanently lose their right to vote unless it is restored by the governor, said Marc Mauer, executive director of the Sentencing Project. He argued the state’s high exclusion rate is “quite likely to have a real impact on elections.”Full Article: Kentucky voting law leaves many out of election.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court upheld a move by Texas lawmakers to implement voter identification checks at polls during the midterm elections this November. “Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg issued a six-page dissent saying the court’s action ‘risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters,’” reports Adam Liptak for The New York Times. “The law, enacted in 2011, requires voters seeking to cast their ballots at the polls to present photo identification like a Texas driver’s or gun license, a military ID or a passport,” he explains. “Those requirements, Justice Ginsburg wrote, ‘may prevent more than 600,000 registered Texas voters (about 4.5 percent of all registered voters) from voting in person for lack of compliant identification.’” At the heart of the voter-ID debate is the specter of voter fraud. Right-leaning pundits have expended hours upon hours of airtime persuading viewers of its widespread existence and insidious growth. “Voter fraud will occur” during the 2014 midterm elections, claims Hans von Spakovsky, writing for The Wall Street Journal. “Many states run a rickety election process, lacking rules to deter people who are looking to take advantage of the system’s porous security. And too many groups and individuals — including the N.A.A.C.P., the American Civil Liberties Union and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder — are doing everything they can to prevent states from improving the integrity of the election process.” “Democrats want everyone to vote: old, young, white, black, Hispanic, Asian, citizen, non-citizen,” Mona Charen writes at National Review. “Voter-ID laws, passed by 30 states so far, are efforts by legislatures to ensure the integrity of votes. Being asked to show a photo ID can diminish several kinds of fraud, including impersonation, duplicate registrations in different jurisdictions, and voting by ineligible people including felons and non-citizens,” she says.Full Article: Is It Voter Fraud or Voter Suppression in 2014? - NYTimes.com.
National: The Supreme Court Eviscerates the Voting Rights Act in a Texas Voter-ID Decision | The Nation
In 1963, only 156 of 15,000 eligible black voters in Selma, Alabama, were registered to vote. The federal government filed four lawsuits against the county registrars between 1963 and 1965, but the number of black registered voters only increased from 156 to 383 during that time. The law couldn’t keep up with the pace and intensity of voter suppression. The Voting Rights Act ended the blight of voting discrimination in places like Selma by eliminating the literacy tests and poll taxes that prevented so many people from voting. The Selma of yesteryear is reminiscent of the current situation in Texas, where a voter ID law blocked by the federal courts as a discriminatory poll tax on two different occasions—under two different sections of the VRA—remains on the books. The law was first blocked in 2012 under Section 5 of the VRA. “A law that forces poorer citizens to choose between their wages and their franchise unquestionably denies or abridges their right to vote,” wrote Judge David Tatel. “The same is true when a law imposes an implicit fee for the privilege of casting a ballot.” Then the Supreme Court gutted the VRA—ignoring the striking evidence of contemporary voting discrimination in places like Texas—which allowed the voter ID law to immediately go into effect. “Eric Holder can no longer deny #VoterID in #Texas after today’s #SCOTUSdecision,” Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott tweeted minutes after the Shelby County v. Holder decision. States like Texas, with the worst history of voting abuses, no longer had to approve their voting changes with the federal government. Texas had lost more Section 5 lawsuits than any other state.Full Article: The Supreme Court Eviscerates the Voting Rights Act in a Texas Voter-ID Decision | The Nation.
A federal judge on Thursday struck down a Texas law requiring voters to show identification at polls, saying it placed an unconstitutional burden on voters and discriminated against minorities. In a ruling that follows a two-week trial in Corpus Christi of a lawsuit challenging the law, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos also found that it amounted to an unconstitutional poll tax. “The court holds that SB 14 creates an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote, has an impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans and was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose,” Ramos wrote in a 147-page ruling.Full Article: Federal judge strikes down Texas law requiring voter ID at polls | Reuters.
Attorney General Eric Holder criticized the Supreme Court Monday for leaving in place a law shortening the early voting period in Ohio, calling the decision “a major step backward.” The broadside from Mr. Holder, delivered in a video posted on the Justice Department website, comes at a key moment in the political and legal battles surrounding this year’s congressional elections. Under the new schedule, early voting in Ohio for Congress, governor, and state legislators begins Tuesday. The Supreme Court could also soon decide whether voting laws in North Carolina and Wisconsin will go into effect for the election next month. The Justice Department is challenging those laws, as well as voting laws in Texas.Full Article: Holder Faults Supreme Court on Early Voting - WSJ.
When Eric Holder took over the Department of Justice, the Civil Rights Division, known as the crown jewel of the agency, was in shambles. Conservative political appointees in the Bush administration had forced out well-respected section chiefs. Longtime career lawyers left in droves, replaced by partisan hacks. Civil rights enforcement was virtually non-existent. Holder made restoring the credibility of the Civil Rights Division a leading cause. “In the last eight years, vital federal laws designed to protect rights in the workplace, the housing market, and the voting booth have languished,” he said at his confirmation hearing. “Improper political hiring has undermined this important mission. That must change. And I intend to make this a priority as attorney general.” Enforcing the Voting Rights Act became a key priority for Holder’s Justice Department. In 2012, it successfully challenged Texas’s voter ID law, South Carolina’s voter ID law, and Florida’s cutbacks to early voting under the VRA.Full Article: Eric Holder’s Voting Rights Legacy | The Nation.
The fate of Texas’ tough voter ID law moved into the hands of a federal judge this week, following a trial that the US Justice Department said exposed another chapter in the state’s troubling history of discrimination in elections. State attorneys defending the law signed by Republican Governor Rick Perry in 2011 urged the judge to follow other courts by upholding photo identification requirements. The most recent such case came this month when a federal appeals panel reinstated Wisconsin’s law in time for Election Day. Whether Texas will also get a ruling before then is unclear. US district judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos ended the two-week trial in Corpus Christi on Monday without signaling when she’ll make a decision, meaning that as of now, an estimated 13.6 million registered Texas voters will need a photo ID to cast a ballot in November.Full Article: Federal judge takes on Texas voter ID law at heart of discrimination debate | World news | theguardian.com.
The fate of Texas’ tough voter ID law moved into the hands of a federal judge Monday, following a trial that the U.S. Justice Department said exposed another chapter in the state’s troubling history of discrimination in elections. State attorneys defending the law signed by Republican Gov. Rick Perry in 2011 urged the judge to follow other courts by upholding photo identification requirements. The most recent such case came this month when a federal appeals panel reinstated Wisconsin’s law in time for Election Day. Whether Texas will also get a ruling before then is unclear. U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos ended the two-week trial in Corpus Christi without signaling when she’ll make a decision, meaning that as of now, an estimated 13.6 million registered Texas voters will need a photo ID to cast a ballot in November.Full Article: Fate of Texas’ tough voter ID law in judge’s hands - The Washington Post.
Texas: Democrats ask for federal probe of AG raid that targeted voter sign-up group | Dallas Morning News
Democratic congressmen from Texas have asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate a raid by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office that targeted a nonprofit voter registration group. The Dallas Morning News reported Aug. 31 on the attorney general’s criminal investigation of Houston Votes, which was accused of election fraud. The probe was closed one year later, with no charges filed. Following the armed raid in 2010, the funding for Houston Votes dried up. Its efforts to register more low-income voters in the state’s most populous county, Harris, ended. The group’s records and office equipment were destroyed under a court order obtained by Abbott’s office last year. In a Sept. 10 letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the 12 Democratic House members from Texas asked the Justice Department to open an investigation into the matter. “This raid raises serious concerns about the biased use of state resources to prevent Texans from legally registering to vote,” the letter said. Texas has 36 House districts, with Republicans holding 24 seats. A Justice Department spokeswoman said the investigation request is being reviewed.Full Article: Texas Democrats ask for federal probe of AG raid that targeted voter sign-up group | Dallas Morning News.
The Justice Department and the state of Texas are tangling in two separate court cases that could determine how much of the Voting Rights Act is still enforceable. Last year, the United States Supreme Court moved to narrow the scope of the historic act, passed in 1965 as a watershed moment in the civil rights movement. The Act in its original form guaranteed the voting rights of minorities under the 14th and 15th Amendments, including a provision called Section 5 that required states with a history of discrimination to get federal government approval before changing their election laws. In 2013, the Supreme Court decided in Shelby County v. Holder that the formula used to decide which states had historically discriminated against voters was unconstitutional, and it asked Congress to devise a new coverage formula. The ruling effectively allowed nine states (mostly in the South) to change their election laws without federal approval, since there was little expectation that Congress could agree on a new coverage formula in the near future. But the Obama administration and the Justice Department, under Attorney General Eric Holder, vowed to use other parts of the Voting Rights Act to press its case where it believed voter discrimination existed. In Texas, the Justice Department is pursuing two federal court actions: one in San Antonio and the other in Corpus Christi.Full Article: The Texas two-step and the Voting Rights Act.
Voting Blogs: As Redistricting Suit Continues, What is the State’s Endgame? | Texas Election Law Blog
A surfeit of lawyers are at this moment proceeding with the second of three week-long hearings in the Federal District Court, Western District of Texas, San Antonio Division. The issue is whether the State of Texas intentionally discriminated against protected classes of minority voters in the course of redistricting U.S. Congressional districts in 2011. The facts of the case as previously established are particularly unflattering to the Republican Party leadership in the Texas Legislature, and back in 2012 another Federal court already ruled that the Congressional redistricting was discriminatory, and carefully pointed out the evidence that this discrimination was intentional. Given all this, one might be inclined to ask, “what, exactly, is the State trying to accomplish in its defense of this lawsuit?” As I’ve said before, I am a terrible prognosticator of political outcomes, in part because my dogged naivety gets in the way of my cynicism. With the litigation history of the 2011 redistricting largely running against the State, I would presume that at both the trial and appellate levels, the courts would be likely to find that continued close Federal monitoring of Texas election procedures is required under Section 3(b) of the Voting Rights Act.Full Article: As Redistricting Suit Continues, What is the State’s Endgame? « Texas Election Law Blog.
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.Full Article: Eric Holder goes to the mat for voting rights | MSNBC.
The Obama administration filed court papers Wednesday challenging Republican-backed election laws in Ohio and Wisconsin, as the legal fights over voting rights spread beyond traditional Southern borders. In Wisconsin, the Justice Department filed a brief supporting a previous federal court ruling against the state’s photo identification requirement, which was deemed unfair to minority voters. In Ohio, the Justice Department weighed in against a law limiting early voting and same day registration. Attorney General Eric Holder, in a statement, said the two states’ voting laws “represent the latest, misguided attempts to fix a system that isn’t broken,” adding that both measures “threaten access to the ballot box.” Mr. Holder had previously signaled his department would take legal action against Ohio and Wisconsin. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate, has defended his state’s identification law as necessary to prevent voter fraud that could sway an election. His office didn’t immediately comment on Wednesday’s filing.Full Article: Eric Holder Takes Voting Rights Battle to Ohio, Wisconsin - WSJ.
The U.S. Department of Justice made good today on its promise to intervene in Ohio elections, joining an existing lawsuit trying to restore more evening and weekend voting for Ohioans. The federal government filed a “statement of interest” in NAACP litigation against Secretary of State Jon Husted and Attorney General Mike DeWine. A separate filing today challenged changes in Wisconsin voting laws. “These filings are necessary to confront the pernicious measures in Wisconsin and Ohio that would impose significant barriers to the most basic right of our democracy,” said Attorney General Eric Holder in a release.Full Article: Justice Dept. joins suit challenging Ohio election rules | The Columbus Dispatch.
The Justice Department on Wednesday sided with challengers of voting laws in Wisconsin and Ohio, saying in court filings that measures in those states unfairly affect minority voters. The department criticized a Wisconsin law that requires voters to present photo identification at the polls and an Ohio law that limits when voters can cast an early ballot. The court papers from the federal government are aimed at persuading judges that the laws, which are being challenged in court, are discriminatory and block access to the ballot box. “These filings are necessary to confront the pernicious measures in Wisconsin and Ohio that would impose significant barriers to the most basic right of our democracy,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement. The Justice Department has warned of legal actions against states after the U.S. Supreme Court last year wiped out a major provision of the Voting Rights Act. That provision required select states with a history of discrimination in voting — mainly in the South — to receive Washington’s approval before changing the way they hold elections. Last year, the department sued Texas and North Carolina over measures in those states. But the government didn’t use that approach in either Ohio or Wisconsin, instead submitting court filings joining with challengers who want the measures declared invalid.Full Article: Justice Dept. weighs in on Wis. voting case | Wisconsin Law Journal - WI Legal News & Resources.
The U.S. Justice Department told judges Monday that Texas lawmakers carefully crafted electoral maps marginalizing minority voters despite the state’s exploding Hispanic population in a deliberate effort to racially discriminate and protect conservative incumbents. Attorneys for Texas countered that the Legislature did the best it could, given that it had to devise maps partisan enough to pass the Republican majority, while dismissing suggestions of intentional discrimination. The case, which opened before a three-judge federal court panel in San Antonio, concerns electoral districts drawn in 2011 for U.S. House elections, as well as voting maps for the state House. It could also have national implications — the Justice Department has joined and is arguing that the Voting Rights Act should still apply to Texas despite a recent Supreme Court ruling weakening many of its key portions.Full Article: Texas accused of purposely excluding minorities in redistricting | Dallas Morning News.
It’s far too soon to make any predictions. But a recent decision by a federal judge in the challenge to Texas’s harsh voter ID law may augur well for the chances of getting the law struck down when it goes to trial in September. Overturning the law would be a massive win for the Obama administration, which is spearheading the challenge, and could boost Democrats’ long-term hopes of competing in Texas. It would be an embarrassing defeat for Gov. Rick Perry and for Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is highlighting his defense of the law as he runs to succeed Perry as governor. The law, passed in 2011 with strong support from Perry, imposes the strictest ID requirement in the nation. It requires that Texans show one of a narrow range of state or federal IDs. Gun licenses are accepted, but student IDs, and even out-of-state driver’s licenses, aren’t. Finding that it would disproportionately affect minority voters, a federal court blocked the law in 2012 under the Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which required the state to get federal approval for its voting laws. But hours after the Supreme Court invalidated Section 5 last year, Abbott announced that the law would go into effect.Full Article: Texas voter ID law must stand trial, judge rules | MSNBC.
National: A year later, Holder, civil rights groups decry impact of voting rights ruling | McClatchy
On the one-year anniversary of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down a core provision of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act, Democrats and civil rights groups stepped up their push for a congressional fix. Attorney General Eric Holder, the first black to lead the Justice Department, assailed a Wisconsin voter identification law that he said impaired voting by minorities “without serving any legitimate government interest.” A federal judge struck down the law in April, but Wisconsin’s attorney general has filed an appeal. On Capitol Hill, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on bipartisan legislation aimed at updating the nearly half Century-old Voting Rights Act with a new formula for determining which jurisdictions would be required to clear with the Justice Department election changes that might disproportionately impact minority voters.Full Article: WASHINGTON: A year later, Holder, civil rights groups decry impact of voting rights ruling | Washington Watch | McClatchy DC.
Attorney General Eric Holder said Monday his office will consult with tribes across the country to develop ways to increase voting access for American Indians and Alaska Natives. Holder said the goal is to require state and local election officials to place at least one polling site in a location chosen by tribal governments in parts of the nation that include tribal lands. Barriers to voting, he said, include English-only ballots and inaccessible polling places. In Alaska, for example, the village of Kasigluk is separated into two parts by a river with no bridge. On election day, people on one side have just a few hours to vote before a ballot machine is taken by boat to the other side. Several other Alaska villages have been designated as permanent absentee voting areas, which is something allowed by regulation, according to Gail Fenumia, director of the state Division of Elections.Full Article: Tribal leaders welcome Holder's voting access plan - The Monitor: Elections.