Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday compared voter ID laws like the one in Texas to “poll taxes” that were outlawed by the 24th Amendment.
“As many of you know, yesterday was the first day in the trial of a case that the state of Texas filed against the Justice Department under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act seeking approval of it’s proposed voter ID law,” Holder told attendees at the 103rd convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). “After close review, the department found that this law would be harmful to minority voters and we rejected its implementation.”
“Under the proposed law, concealed handgun licenses would be acceptable forms of photo ID, but student IDs would not,” the attorney general pointed out. “Many of those without IDs would have to travel great distances to get them. And some would struggle to pay for the documents they might need to obtain them.”
“We call those poll taxes,” Holder added, reportedly straying from his prepared remarks.
The attorney general said he couldn’t predict what would happen in the Texas case, but he vowed to “not allow political pretext to disenfranchise American citizens of their most precious right.”
“The arc of American history has always moved towards expanding the electorate,” Holder explained. “We will simply not allow this era to be the reversal of that historic progress. I will not allow that to happen.”
The Justice Department has said that a disproportionate number of the 1.5 million Texas who do not have the proper ID are black or Hispanic, but lawyers for the state of Texas argued that those figures were inflated.
Poll taxes were a part of Jim Crow-era laws that were used largely in southern states to disenfranchise minority voters. The 24th Amendment abolished poll taxes in federal elections and the Supreme Court later banned them in state elections as a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
Watch this video from NAACP, broadcast July 10, 2012.