The Department of Justice wants to reclaim its oversight of Texas voting laws, asking a federal court to reinstate its power to approve changes made by the state, now that the Supreme Court has gutted a key part 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," said Attorney General Eric Holder during a meeting of the National Urban League. He added: "This is the Department's first action to protect voting rights following the Shelby County decision, but it will not be our last."
The Texas action was expected to be the first in a nationwide roll-out of voting rights cases aimed at counteracting the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June that invalidated a key part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
The Obama administration has been searching for new ways to oppose voting discrimination since a 5-4 conservative majority on the high court ruled that a formula used to determine which states and localities were subject to extra federal scrutiny was outdated.
In June, the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, the part of the law that determined which areas of the country, like Texas, were subject to DOJ preclearance because of a history of racial discrimination at the polls. Though the Court did not address the constitutionality of Section 5, which requires the preclearance in general, in the absence of Section 4 it is inoperable.