After Supreme Court Guts Voting Rights Act, Justice Department Challenges New Restrictive State Election Laws

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Posted July 31, 2013

Interview with Myrna Perez, deputy director, Brennan Center for Justice Democracy Program at New York University Law School, conducted by Scott Harris

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After the Supreme Court’s controversial and narrow 5 to 4 ruling overturning a key section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act on June 25, states across the country that had been prevented from implementing restrictive voter ID laws, reduced early voting schedules and limiting voter registration, moved quickly to revive those once outlawed measures. States moving to enforce these laws recently blocked for their discriminatory consequences, include Texas, North Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi, which had long been subject to the Voting Rights Act’s pre-clearance provisions due to their documented history of election regulations which disenfranchised minority voters.

But Attorney General Eric Holder told members of the Urban League on July 25 that the Obama administration’s Justice Department would exercise provisions of the Voting Rights Act, left intact by the Supreme Court, to challenge a new Texas voter identification law and other similar discriminatory laws in other states. The DOJ will use Section 2, which blocks biased practices, and Section 3, a little used provision of the civil rights era act, that permits federal courts to enforce pre-approval measures for voting changes in states and jurisdictions that engage in blatant discrimination.

Apart from the recent Department of Justice action against Texas, civil rights activists are demanding that Congress work toward a more permanent solution by quickly replacing the Voting Rights Act’s Section 4, struck down by the Supreme Court, that was a formula for designating jurisdictions subject to pre-clearance scrutiny. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Myrna Perez, deputy director of the Brennan Center for Justice Democracy Program. Here she examines the Justice Department’s challenge to restrictive voting laws being implemented in states like Texas, and what’s at stake for democracy in restoring the Voting Rights Act.

For more news and commentary on restoration of the Voting Rights Act and discriminatory voter suppression tactics visit the Brennan Center's website at BrennanCenter.org.

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