Justice Department Targets Texas Over Voter Discrimination

The Justice Department is taking aim at Texas. Attorney General Eric Holder says Texas is one of several states that should be held to tougher standards under the Voting Rights Act.

Last month, the Supreme Court struck down a portion of the Voting Rights Act that required states with a history of discrimination to get pre-clearance from the Justice Department before changing election laws.

Now Attorney General Eric Holder says Texas should still be required to get pre-clearance because of ongoing racial discrimination.

Texas voting maps are tied up in a legal battle over whether the legislature gerrymandered the maps and disenfranchised Hispanic voters.

University of Houston Law Professor Peter Linzer says Holder's comments may signal the start of a complicated legal maneuver in that case.

"The Justice Department going in and saying we want this stayed because it discriminates, then making out a case to show it. And they don't have to win the case, they have to make out a preliminary case enough to get the district court to freeze everything."

Linzer says the burden of proof is on the Justice Department if it gets involved in that litigation.

Holder does have authority to require pre-clearance in cases where  intentional discrimination is found.

The question is whether he can use that authority to require the entire state to submit to pre-clearance for every new election law.

Governor Rick Perry issued a statement saying, in part, that this casts unfair aspersions on Texas' efforts to preserve the integrity of the election process.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...