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Perry slams ‘utter contempt’ of Holder’s Voting Rights Act lawsuit

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Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) slammed the “utter contempt” of a lawsuit brought against the state by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder under Section 3 of the Voting Rights Act, saying the government’s effort to prevent Texas Republicans from discriminating against minorities flies in the face of the Constitution.

Holder announced the lawsuit in a Thursday morning speech to the National Urban League in Philadelphia, saying he would use all the tools available to him in the law to fight against racial discrimination.

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“Once again, the Obama Administration is demonstrating utter contempt for our country’s system of checks and balances, not to mention the U.S. Constitution,” Perry said in a statement published online. “This end-run around the Supreme Court undermines the will of the people of Texas, and casts unfair aspersions on our state’s common-sense efforts to preserve the integrity of our elections process.”

Fellow Texas Republicans Sen. John Cornyn (R) and Rep. Dan Branch echoed Perry’s sentiment. Branch, who is running for Texas attorney general, went even further, saying the Obama administration is now discriminating against Texas. “The reason for this gross insult to the people of Texas is simple,” Branch wrote. “This is really about the Obama administration’s partisan opposition to voter ID laws and other efforts to combat voter fraud.”

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act in June, saying the guidelines for determining what constitutes a historically discriminatory jurisdiction must be updated to modern times. Officials in Texas announced immediately thereafter that plans for a voter ID scheme and newly redrawn congressional districts would move forward.

However, the Justice Department still has license to enforce the Voting Rights Act thanks to Section 3, a portion of the Voting Rights Act that the Supreme Court left standing. Section 3 of the Voting Rights Act is particularly troublesome to politicians like Perry, especially when they’re making proclamations of constitutionality. That’s because Section 3 specifically looks to enforce the 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

It does that by requiring preclearance for changes in voting laws, provided there’s actual evidence of intent to discriminate against minority communities. A federal court ruled in 2011 that the state’s redistricting efforts were in fact discriminatory, based upon emails between Republicans in the state who demonstrated clear discriminatory intent.

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If a court rules in favor of Holder, it could send the whole dispute over the Voting Rights Act back to the Supreme Court. It would also send Texas Republicans back to the drawing board, facing newly resurgent Democrats and a gubernatorial election that could end up in a nail-biter depending upon who Democrats run.
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[Photo: Flickr user markn3tel, creative commons licensed.]


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