The Obama administration is waiting for Congress to block states that may try to disenfranchise voters.
Whether Congress will be able to develop a formula to replace a key provision in the Voting Rights Act the Supreme Court struck down last month is anyone's guess. But while lawmakers figure it out or fight it out, the Obama administration is moving forward. Starting deep in the heart of Texas, Attorney General Eric Holder announced Thursday.
Speaking at the National Urban League conference in Philadelphia, Holder said the Justice Department has asked a federal court in San Antonio to require Texas to get pre-clearance from the agency before making changes to voting laws and practices. He said the decision was based on a redistricting case DOJ presented last year and "the history of pervasive voting-related discrimination against racial minorities" that Holder said even the Supreme Court has recognized.
He also put other states on warning that the move in Texas is only the beginning.
"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. "Even as Congress considers updates to the Voting Rights Act in light of the court’s ruling, we plan, in the meantime, to fully utilize the law’s remaining sections to subject states to pre-clearance as necessary."
Despite DOJ's determination to use every tool at its disposal, Holder added, "these remaining tools are no substitute for legislation that must fill the void left by the Supreme Court's decision."
After the court directed Congress to develop a new formula to determine which states or parts of states must seek pre-clearance from the Justice Department or a federal judicial panel before making voting changes, the Urban League added an emergency voting rights session to its conference agenda.
Marc Morial, who heads the organization, is optimistic that Congress will not be able to complete its assignment, but will also include states beyond the South.
"I think a much more dynamic system of coverage will be proposed now that we've seen the type of shenanigans we used to only see in the South [attempted] in places like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin," he told BET.com earlier this week.
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(Photo: REUTERS/Mark Makela)