Holder announces plans to restore provisions of Voting Rights Act

Holder announces plans to restore provisions of Voting Rights Act

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[JURIST] US Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] announced [press release] on Thursday that the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] will ask [filing, PDF] a federal court in Texas to subject the state to a preclearance regime similar to the one required by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) [JURIST backgrounder]. In June, the US Supreme Court [official website] ruled [JURIST report] in Shelby County v. Holder [SCOTUSblog backgrounder] that section 4 of the VRA was unconstitutional, and its formula could no longer be used as a basis for subjecting jurisdictions to preclearance. Section 4 provided the formula for determining which jurisdictions were subject to Section 5. Holder explained:

The evidence of intentional racial discrimination that was presented last year in the redistricting case, Texas v. Holder—as well as the history of pervasive voting-related discrimination against racial minorities that the Supreme Court itself has recognized—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 stated that this was not to be the DOJ’s last action to protect voting rights following the Shelby County decision, but emphasized that filing federal lawsuits to subject jurisdictions to Section 5 was no substitute for the legislation which must “fill the void” left by the Supreme Court’s decision.

Prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling, Section 5 of the VRA was the source of renewed controversy, as lawsuits in jurisdictions including Texas, Alaska and South Carolina sought to invalidate the preclearance enforcement scheme to which they were subject. Congress voted in 2006 to extend the VRA [JURIST report] for another 25 years, despite attempts [JURIST report] by some lawmakers to amend or repeal the Act based on concerns over excessive federal oversight.