Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday the Justice Department will “not allow political pretexts” to block eligible voters from reaching the ballot booths, as the high-profile showdown over Texas’s voter identification trial continues into its second day in D.C. federal court.
“Let me be clear: we will not allow political pretexts to disenfranchise American citizens of their most precious right,” Holder said during the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s annual convention in Houston.
The Texas law requires almost every voter (except those voting with absentee ballots or from overseas) to show photo ID when voting. Most forms are accepted, including driver’s licenses and firearms permits, but student IDs from state universities are not.
Proponents say its implementation is a no-brainer and is intended to root out voter fraud. But the Justice Department contends the law disproportionately affects minority voters. Experts have said this case may foretell the outcome of the other voter ID law challenges taking place in other states, including South Carolina. Under the Voting Rights Act, Texas has to seek pre-clearance to change its voting rules because, under a provision known as Section 5, the state has a history of discrimination.
“After close review, the Department found that this law would be harmful to minority voters – and we rejected its implementation,” the attorney general said before the NAACP. “Many of those without IDs would have to travel great distances to get them – and some would struggle to pay for the documents they might need to obtain them.”
Holder, going off-script, continued: “We call those poll taxes,” according to a report by the Associated Press.
He concluded: “The arc of American history has always moved toward expanding the electorate… We will simply not allow this era to be the beginning of the reversal of that historic progress.”
UPDATE: This story has been updated to include Eric Holder’s off-script remarks.