DOJ Decision to Sue Texas, Other States on Voter ID Condemned
by Judy Kent
Washington, DC - A legal expert with the Project 21 black leadership network is criticizing today's announcement by Attorney General Eric Holder that the Obama Administration intends to revive the onerous and out-of-date "preclearance" standards of the Voting Rights Act. Only one month ago, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Act's antiquated preclearance formula.
Project 21 Co-Chairman Horace Cooper, a native Texan, former constitutional law professor and legal counsel to then-U.S. House Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas, said the move is a crassly political one that will force Holder to "put up or shut up."
In a July 25 speech to the National Urban League in Philadelphia, Attorney General Holder called the Supreme Court's June 25 decision in Shelby County, Alabama v. Eric Holder "deeply disappointing -- and flawed." That decision found Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act to be unconstitutional -- saying the Act's nearly 50-year-old formula for setting "preclearance" standards that required certain states, counties and localities to obtain prior federal approval for all actions affecting voting is not consistent with generations of positive change in American race relations.
"With today's statement, Attorney General Eric Holder proves he is more interested in political stunts than enforcing the law," said Project 21's Cooper. "It may aid the political efforts of Mr. Holder to bring these phony claims to court, but his win-loss record in these matters is becoming clearer and clearer."
Holder said that the Justice Department is "determined to use every tool at our disposal" to overcome the Court's ruling, and that he intends "to fully utilize the law's remaining sections" to find ways to impose preclearance standards on jurisdictions he apparently believes to still be governed by racists.
In particular, Holder told the National Urban League audience that he has "ask[ed] a federal court in Texas to subject the State of Texas to a preclearance regime." The main tool of such a regime against Texas, Section 4, was lifted by the Shelby County decision.
In an action disproving claims made by the civil rights lobby and liberal politicians at the time of the Shelby County decision that the justices gutted the Voting Rights Act, Holder's new strategy involves utilizing Section 3 of the Act. Section 3's "bail in" option allows for additions to the now-unconstitutional preclearance pool that had arbitrarily punished all or part of 16 states, largely based on actions observed during the 1964 elections. In seeking to create a new preclearance pool in the post-Shelby era, Holder must show current discrimination, and the burden of proving accusations of clear and present offenses lies with the accuser.
"The courtroom is no place to roll the dice to find out what the law is, and the Attorney General of the United States should know better," Cooper explained. "Whether Mr. Holder chooses to admit it or not, the burdens have shifted and the process is changed. Instead of Texas having to disprove the Obama Justice Department's claims, it is now up to Mr. Holder to put up or shut up."
The Justice Department sent a "statement of interest" to a three-judge panel currently examining electoral districts drawn by the state legislature that are alleged to not be representative enough of Hispanic voters.
Last year, the Justice Department put a hold on ballot safeguards passed by Texas lawmakers that required government-issued identification for in-person voting.
In an analysis of this use of the Voting Rights Act's preclearance authority to block implementation of voter ID, Project 21's Cooper wrote in 2012: "The actions of the Department of Justice are wholly unjustified. The foot-dragging, the shoddy statistical analysis and the decision to ignore U.S. Supreme Court precedent reveal either a beleaguered Justice Department incapable of maintaining a professional level of operation or a rogue agency willfully placing its weight on one side of the scale of justice."
A three-judge panel nonetheless sided with the Justice Department.
"And as I noted last year in a National Policy Analysis published by the National Center for Public Policy Research, using phony statistics won't be sufficient to prevail in court this time around," Cooper argues.
Project 21 filed it's own amicus curiae ("friend of the court") legal brief with the U.S. Supreme Court on the merits of the Shelby County v. Holder case. Previously, Project 21 joined another legal brief that was written by the Pacific Legal Foundation and also joined by the Center for Equal Opportunity that urged the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case.
Members of Project 21, the only conservative group on hand for interviews at the Court on the day the case was argued, were interviewed and cited with regard to the Shelby case over 100 times so far in 2013 alone -- including by Reuters, the Westwood One radio network, HBO's "Real Time," CBS Radio, Voice of America, the Chicago Tribune, Blaze TV, the Washington Examiner and in Cal Thomas's widely-syndicated opinion column.