Voting rights in Texas should not face changes without federal approval, announced Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday. He will ask the US Justice Department to require Texas to check with federal authorities before putting new voting laws into place.
A key provision of the Voting Rights Act was struck down by the US Supreme Court in June. Now states like Texas no longer require federal oversight for their election laws. Though the Voting Rights Act remains, the section outlining which states specifically need federal permission to change their voting laws was removed.
Many say this has left the Voting Rights Act toothless. Holder’s new court motion will be introduced later Thursday, and many hope this will mean enforcement of the Voting Rights Act again. It is expected to be the first move by the Obama administration to reintroduce federal oversight of state voting laws.
Attorney General Holder announced his intentions in a speech made to the National Urban League in Philadelphia Thursday, CNN reports. He says the Justice Department will not wait for Congress to update the Voting Rights Act, and will “fully utilize the law’s remaining section to subject states to preclearance as necessary.”
It is a matter of civil rights, adds Holder. He says that his department will “use every tool at our disposal to stand against such discrimination wherever it is found.”
New York Times says lawyers representing minority groups in Texas have already requested courts to have the state return to federal oversight.
Texas is the first target for Holder. It is likely this was because the southern state hurried to push through new voting laws less than 24 hours after the Supreme Court ruling axed the key Voting Rights Act provision. If the Justice Department is successful in putting Texas under federal oversight again, other states will likely face scrutiny too.
Congress is still responsible for updating the Voting Rights Act. But many, like Holder, remain skeptical that they will move fast enough to protect minority’s voting rights at the polls.