Obama administration declares new voter-rights strategy
The Obama administration embarked on a new strategy Thursday to challenge voting laws it says discriminate by race, an effort to counter a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last month that freed states from the strictest federal oversight.
Attorney General Eric Holder vowed to start in Texas, a conservative stronghold where his Justice Department will ask a federal court for renewed power to block new election laws it says illegally discriminate against blacks and other minorities.
The Texas action was expected to be the first in a nationwide rollout of cases to work around Shelby County v. Holder, the Alabama case in which the Supreme Court on June 25 invalidated a key part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
"This is the department's first action to protect voting rights following the Shelby County decision, but it will not be our last," Holder said to a standing ovation in Philadelphia at the annual conference of the National Urban League, a civil rights organization.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican and possible presidential candidate in 2016, said the move demonstrated contempt by the Obama administration.
"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," Perry said in a statement.
President Barack Obama's 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court ruled that a formula used to determine which states and localities were subject to extra federal scrutiny was outdated.
The extra scrutiny had included U.S. government preclearance of any changes in voting laws or procedures, down to the location of polling places, for a select number of states and localities with a history of racial discrimination.