Attorney General Eric Holder announced Thursday that the Department of Justice (DOJ) would seek to apply pre-clearance to Texas for the next decade, an aggressive response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling against the Voting Rights Act in June. Pre-clearance refers to the process by which a state or jurisdiction must submit any changes to voting or election practices to the DOJ for approval.
The Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, the pre-clearance formula that determines which states with a blatant history of racial discrimination at the polls must submit voting changes to the Justice Department. The court said the formula, based on states that had discriminatory practices back in the 1960s and 1970s, was outdated. The formula chiefly targeted states in the South.
The court’s ruling effectively gutted pre-clearance, but it left in place Section 3, known as the “bail in” provision. Holder is seeking a federal district court’s approval to “bail in” Texas to pre-clearance under Section 3. He said Texas’ redistricting plan last year discriminated against Hispanics.
“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 Thursday. “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.”
The DOJ can also sue states and jurisdictions for discriminatory voting practices under Section 2 of the act, but Section 2 places the burden of proof on the DOJ instead of the states. If courts agree to apply pre-clearance to Texas for the next decade, the state must submit all election changes to the DOJ for approval.