Obama pledges to keep fighting for the Voting Rights Act

Let’s hold him to that.

President Barack Obama assured civil rights leaders Monday that he will aggressively protect minority voters in Texas and other states, a month after the Supreme Court ended decades of federal election scrutiny.

“The Supreme Court struck down one provision, not the entire act,” said Wade Henderson, president of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, after a meeting with Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder. He said they reaffirmed “the federal government’s overriding responsibility to protect democracy and the right to vote for all Americans.”

State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, joined him and two dozen other activists for the private White House meeting.

He also came away optimistic, even if Congress — as most analysts expect — doesn’t restore federal oversight.

“If you look at an issue as contentious as the Voting Rights Act, you want an all-of-the-above strategy,” said Martinez Fischer, chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus. The group has challenged the state of Texas over redistricting and a 2011 law to require voters to show photo IDs. “You want to have a congressional plan. You want to have an outreach plan. You want to have a litigation plan.”


On Thursday, Holder announced that the Justice Department would invoke an obscure provision of the law, Section 3, to ask a court to restore special oversight for Texas for a decade.

Gov. Rick Perry, state Attorney General Greg Abbott and other GOP leaders in Texas denounced the move as an effort to circumvent the Supreme Court.

Texas has a long history of voting rights violations. But state GOP leaders say its relatively high turnout among minority voters shows that ongoing scrutiny is unfair.

To borrow from our Vice President, that allegations that pursuing Section 3 claims is somehow “circumventing” the Supreme Court is pure malarkey. SCOTUS did not throw out Section 5, the preclearance section of the VRA, it threw out Section 4, which was the historic formula for determining who was subject to preclearance. Section 3 has been there all along, it was just not needed in Texas before now. All that’s happened is that the plaintiffs and now the Justice Department have filed motions with the federal courts that argue Texas should continue to be subject to preclearance under Section 3 of the VRA. Whatever the ruling, you can be sure that the matter will find its way back before the Supreme Court again. How that can possibly be considered “circumventing” is beyond me. And if the state of Texas really wants to end being subjected to this kind of scrutiny, perhaps it could put more effort into not passing discriminatory laws related to voting.

Texas Redistricting deals with this question as well.

In the eyes of the Supreme Court, the failure of Congress to update that formula when it renewed section 5 in 2006 created fatal constitutional problems for the formula because it treated states differently without – in the view of the Supreme Court – an any-longer valid reason for doing so.

But section 3 is different.

For starters, section 3 looks not at 1972 but at recent intentionally discriminatory behavior to decide if a state should be put under preclearance review. And it makes that determination on a case by case basis – letting courts tailor the remedy to the situation.

But, as importantly, it applies throughout the nation.

If Vermont engages in intentionally discriminatory behavior, it too could be placed under section 3 review. That makes section 3 very different from section 5, where the list of covered jurisdictions was effectively set in stone by a rigid, time-based coverage formula.

When elected officials complain – as a number have – that section 3 treats states differently, that’s tantamount to complaining that drunk-driving laws treat people who drink-and-drive differently from those who don’t. They do – but for good reason.

It’s worth your time as always to read in full. The comparisons to Texas as a drunk driver and a shoplifter are dead on.

In the meantime, I’m going to take freakouts like this as evidence that Perry, Abbott, et al are genuinely worried about the outcome.

Greg Abbott, the Texas attorney general and candidate for governor, today ramped up his attack on the president, accusing him of wielding the Justice Department for political purposes.

“Mr. Obama’s attorneys conceal this partisan agenda with lofty rhetoric about minority voting rights,” Abbott writes today in an anti-Obama screed in the conservative Washington Times.

Abbott’s commentary, published a day after the president assured civil rights leaders that he’ll press Texas and other states aggressively on minority voter rights, gets featured display in the Times.


Abbott argues that Democrats have used Voting Rights Act litigation to stymie GOP inroads with Hispanics. He blames redistricting litigation for forcing from office several Hispanic Republicans – state Reps. Jose Aliseda, Raul Torres, Aaron Pena and John Garza, and U.S. Rep. Quico Canseco.

Hilarious. The Republicans’ own efforts to woo Hispanic voters are stymieing enough; they don’t need any extra help in that department. As for that fabulous five of Republican Latinos, four were elected in the 2010 landslide, the other switched parties in a district that voted 70%+ Democratic. Even the Republicans’ heroic efforts to draw him a district he could win weren’t enough to keep Aaron Pena from chickening out before trying to run under his new colors. Quico Canseco was such an inept candidate that despite the various illegal methods employed to help him, he still wound up as the only GOP incumbent to lose in a district carried by Mitt Romney. They needed to cheat for him to win, and they couldn’t quite cheat enough, poor babies. Daily Kos has more.

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One Response to Obama pledges to keep fighting for the Voting Rights Act

  1. Mainstream says:

    I think you are being unfairly dismissive of the argument about Hispanic Republican officeholders. The structure of the VRA works against building multiracial coalitions by Republican or conservative candidates, because only the candidate of choice of black or Hispanic or other minority voters matters. So when a GOP candidate wins by pulling 25% of the black vote in her district (as a Virginia state senator did in the 1970s) or when a GOP candidate like Bonilla is able to pull a slice but not a majority of Hispanic voters, the response of the VRA is to remove Anglo voters from the affected district so that the “true” representative of the minority group can be more easily elected in the next version of that district. For the 25% or slice of minority voters who supported the GOP/Bonilla sort of candidate, the VRA does not advance their interests.

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