Eric Holder Will Sue Texas Under the Voting Rights Act

He has announced that he will sue Texas under section 3C of the voting rights act. Basically, the Supreme Court invalidated the old list that was incorporated into the law when it was first passed (Section 5 4), but section 3, which can be invoked on the basis of specific actions by a state, can also require preclearance on voting changes.

This has been invoked before, albeit briefly:

The Obama administration moved to retain some oversight of the way states conduct elections after the Supreme Court invalidated part of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act, setting up a new fight with Republican governors.

The legal strategy, announced by Attorney General Eric Holder Thursday, is directed initially at Texas’ voting procedures, but it promises to have much broader impact: The action in Texas, Mr. Holder said, “will not be our last.” Other states expected to receive Justice Department scrutiny include South Carolina, North Carolina and Alaska.

On Thursday, the Justice Department asked a panel of judges in San Antonio to order continued scrutiny of the state’s voting rules and operations, following the Supreme Court ruling in June that effectively nullified what had been a requirement for the state to seek federal approval of any changes.

In an announcement that drew strong criticism from Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Republicans in other states, the attorney general said the Justice Department would invoke a little-used section of the law as a replacement measure for the one the Supreme Court struck down.

In its decision, the court effectively voided Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act by ruling unconstitutional the formula the federal government used to identify jurisdictions that must receive its approval—a process called preclearance—before changing voting procedures.

Now, Mr. Holder said, the Justice Department will use Section 3 of the law to try to keep Texas subject to preclearance. Under Section 5, certain states and counties with a history of discrimination against minority voters couldn’t implement voting-rule changes without federal approval. Under Section 3, a court must first find evidence of intentional discrimination—a tougher test—before subjecting the jurisdiction to preclearance.

In the Texas case filed late Thursday, Justice Department lawyers are seeking a 10-year preclearance period.

In this case, the “tougher standard” is not so tough.

There was already a finding of fact by a court a few months ago (under the now defunct section 5) that Texas was engaged in discrimination.

I also think that discovery, when the DoJ computer forensics teams go through emails at the Texas state house, should be very interesting.

Props to Eric Holder. (I cannot believe that I just wrote that)


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