Eric Holder’s gambit to effectively overrule the U.S. Supreme Court and force Texas to continue getting its voting laws approved by judges or the federal government is his boldest move yet as the administration’s point man on civil rights and the latest example of Holder, the nation’s first black attorney general, taking on controversial racial issues.
In seeking to get federal courts to impose a pre-clearance requirement on Texas and other states through Section 3 of the Voting Rights Act, Holder is taking a strong stand not only against the conservative justices on the Supreme Court who struck down Section 4 of the historic voting law last month, but also Republican legislatures and governors who are now seeking to pass controversial voting laws in the wake of that decision.
He could later target states such as North Carolina, which is on the verge of enacting legislation that could reduce the number of days of early voting from 17 to 10, end same-day voting registration and disallow the use of cards issued by universities as proof of identity, all moves civil rights groups say are designed to limit blacks’ ability to vote.
Holder’s decision has been strongly attacked by Republicans in Texas and across the country. But it suggests he and the Obama White House, which endorsed the move, understand the underlying realities of American politics today, particularly in the South: Republicans are pushing policies that could reduce the impact or number of minorities not out of racial motives but political ones, because the vast majority of non-white voters are Democrats and diluting their voting power enhances the ability of the GOP to win elections.
States in the Northeast and West that are heavily-Democratic are passing laws that make it easier to register and vote and expanding early-voting programs in part because these proposals are likely to increase turnout among Democratic-leaning voters.
It also suggest the administration knows getting a new Voting Rights Act passed in Congress is a long shot.
And the move fits a pattern for Holder, who has long been the administration’s loudest voice on civil rights issues, liking Voter ID laws to “poll taxes” last year and last week called for a review of “Stand Your Ground” laws.