In the latest chapter of the Obama administration’s assault on the rule of law, the attorney general is again using the Voting Rights Act as a tool to excite the Democratic Party’s base. Justified by his claim of racism, Eric Holder has brought yet another lawsuit against one of the sovereign states, this time Texas, and the state’s recently adopted requirement that those who wish to vote in Texas must – wait for it — prove they are who they say they are. The administration yearns for Chicago-style elections in which showing ID is a threshold too burdensome for those among us who do not wish to be identified when they cast their ballots.
But by undermining the efforts of Texans voters to protect the American electoral system and ensure that those who seek to participate lawfully are protected from the fraud and nullifying effect of unlawful participants, the president actually seeks to do harm to those he has always vowed to protect – those whose legal suffrage was enabled by decades of fighting for civil rights and equality of the electorate. President Johnson signed the VRA into law to ensure that lawful American citizens would not be deprived of their right to participate in American democracy by state legislatures.
The Voting Rights Act was the product of a time when a handful of southern states sought to reserve voting rights to those who met certain inequitable requirements – e.g., poll taxes and other regressive burdens. Section 5 of the law granted the federal government the right to “pre-clear” nine states’ voting requirement laws, and while some may argue the constitutionality of the original Voting Rights Act in that it deprived these states of the ability to set their own election laws, the VRA has been the law of the land for nearly 40 years.
But despite the fact that the country and the law have evolved to the point of making the pre-clearance requirement of the VRA no longer necessary – a position supported recently by the Supreme Court, the president and his Attorney General cannot help but clutch to the politics of race that fuel their power. In a high-stakes game of whack-a-mole, and having failed under section 5, Holder now seeks in his lawsuit to use a previously un-used section 2 of the VRA to stop the Texas law. And the administration has signaled similar legal action against a new law in North Carolina.
President Obama and his Justice Department are absolutely convinced that requiring simple identification is an un-traversable burden for some, and vow to fight the southern states that have been quick to act in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling – Texas being the first. Mr. Holder as made clear that “the Department will take action against jurisdictions that attempt to hinder access to the ballot box, no matter where it occurs,” a sentiment he wasn’t so keen on living up to when dismissing a 2010 voter intimidation case against the New Black Panthers.