Policymakers Voice Support for Pre-Approval of Voting Changes

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Not all hope is lost for Texas voters: U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and other Democrats are still fighting to keep conservative lawmakers from passing discriminatory voting restrictions.

Last week, Holder announced that he would use other provisions in the act to seek ten more years of pre-approval for voting changes. In the days that followed, a host of organizations and political figures voiced their support.

The excitement behind the Department of Justice's decision is met with the expected protests of conservative politicians who supported the racist redistricting policies.

Read about the reactions from both sides of the aisle after the jump.Last month, the Supreme Court decision on Shelby v. Holder gave conservative policymakers free rein to decide which citizens get to participate in democracy. The ruling, which struck down Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act, released Texas policymakers from the obligation to get federal approval for possibly discriminatory voting policy changes.

Following the announcement of the decision, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced that the Voter ID law, which had previously been struck down by a federal court, would be implemented immediately.

However, Holder and other minority rights groups claim that Texas' recent history of racist redistricting could be grounds for requiring pre-clearance for further changes under Section 3 of the Voting Rights Act.

Based on the evidence of intentional racial discrimination that was presented last year in the redistricting case, Texas v. Holder… we believe that the State of Texas should be required to go through a preclearance process whenever it changes its voting laws and practices,” Holder said last Thursday.

Several senators and representatives spoke out in favor of the Department of Justice's actions.

State Representative Trey Martinez Fischer, the chair of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, said:

The fact that intervention in Texas is the Department of Justice's first action to protect voting rights following the Shelby County decision speaks volumes about the seriousness of Texas' actions…. the stain of discrimination cannot be removed until Texas' maps recognize the growth of the Latino, African American, and Asian American communities. Every Texan's vote must count.

In a statement, U.S. Representative Castro claimed:

Unfortunately, the Texas Legislature has put Texas in a place where we need oversight for clear attacks on voter's rights. We must continue to protect the basic right to choose our elected officials guaranteed by our American Constitution.

Perry's response was expected: He invoked the Constitution as a defense of racist policies rather than a defense against them.

Once again, the Obama administration is demonstrating utter contempt for our country's system of checks and balances, not to mention the U.S. Constitution.

However, this case isn't about whether states should have the responsibility to protect their citizens' voting rights. The DOJ and other plaintiffs argue that Texas simply isn't politically prepared to shoulder that burden. According to State Sen. José Rodríguez,

I look forward to a day when such federal review isn't necessary, but we're not there yet.

Other Texas policymakers applauded the DOJ but still put pressure on Congress to create new standards to safeguard voting rights. According to Dallas representative Eric Johnson,

The Voting Rights Act is still necessary to preserve the right to vote for all, and Congress must fix the hole left in the law by the Supreme Court.

Houston Democratic state Senator Rodney Ellis agrees:

Congress needs to take action revamp the Voting Rights Act to create a formula which takes into account current and historical discrimination and bias while meeting the requirements the Supreme Court has set out.  Otherwise, the voting rights of millions of Americans are in peril.

With Texas' changing ethnic and political landscape, we need protection from discriminatory, anti-democratic restrictions now more than ever. Holder's display of solidarity with Hispanic and African-American plaintiffs is hopefully the first step in rolling back conservative attempts at disenfranchising minorities.


About Author

Natalie San Luis

Natalie is a native Texan, a feminist, and a writer, focusing on reproductive justice, race, and pop culture. When she's not writing (and sometimes when she is), she's brewing beer, drinking beer, and reading stuff on the Internet. Her work has been featured on The Huffington Post, xoJane, The Billfold, Culturemap, and E3W Review of Books. She tweets from @nsanluis.

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