At a time when many Republican-run states are making it harder for people to vote, Attorney General Eric Holder is planning to break up their game.
“The reality is that – in jurisdictions across the country – both overt and subtle forms of discrimination remain all too common,” he said during a speech Tuesday night in Austin, Texas. “And we don’t have to look far to see recent proof.”
Holder was speaking of the state’s recently redrawn voting districts, which will be reviewed by the Supreme Court early next year. The Hispanic population in Texas has grown by over 4 million since the last redistricting effort, but Holder said the newly redrawn districts do not better represent them.
“[T]his state has proposed adding zero additional seats in which Hispanics would have the electoral opportunity envisioned by the Voting Rights Act,” Holder said.
Because Texas falls under provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, it must obtain Department of Justice permission before making significant changes to its voting laws. The act was passed to prevent racial discrimination at the ballot box, either through placing barriers in the way of the vote, or through a process known as gerrymandering, which can be used to consolidate electoral power.
Due to the state’s history for ignoring minority rights, it is fighting to win approval of their new redistricting map, but Holder said officials have not proved that does not discriminate.
Texas is one of eight states — including Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Kansas, Rhode Island and South Carolina — that have approved laws which require voters present a photo ID before casting a ballot.
Many minorities, lower income people, students and senior citizens who tend to vote Democratic do not have voter IDs, and have relied on other forms of identification, like utility bills or voter registration cards, to cast ballots. A recent test-run in Wisconsin found as many as 20 percent of voters coming to the polls without photo IDs.
Holder went on to say that fighting laws which make it more difficult to vote is “a moral imperative,” and urged listeners to speak out to their elected officials and issue the call to overhaul America’s outdated voting system. He also urged officials to consider making voter registration automatic.
Though his speech was praised by voting rights advocates like the American Civil Liberties Union, Holder was not met in Texas with universal welcome.
“Facing an election challenge next year, this administration has chosen to target efforts by the states to protect the democratic process,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) told reporters in a prepared statement.
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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