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DOJ wants Texas to get fed approval on redistricting plans

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The U.S. Justice Department is targeting Texas when it comes to voting rights. It wants the state to get advanced federal approval before settling on redistricting lines. The move is in response to last month's Supreme Court decision that threw out part of the Voting Rights Act. But that is not sitting well with some.

It's a polarizing move by the department of justice. Some applaud the effort while others say its pure politics.

Attorney General Eric Holder previously promised to block or halt any new voting laws in Texas that the department of justice viewed as discriminatory.

"My colleagues and I are determined to use every tool at our disposal to stand against discrimination wherever it is found," Holder said.

On Thursday, Holder made good on that promise, announcing a move to ask a San Antonio-based federal court to force Texas to get federal clearance before changing any voting or elections laws.

"NALEO applauds the efforts that are being made right now through the department of justice," its director, Claudia Ortega Hogue, said.

NALEO is the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. Here in Houston, they work to ensure voting rights for Latinos.

"For us, it's very precious to protect the right to vote," Ortega Hogue said.

It's a sentiment echoed by State Sen. Rodney Ellis.

"Thank God for the attorney general who is using those other provisions to give Texas the much-needed supervision that we need in this state so that so many people would not be disenfranchised," Ellis said.

This challenge to Texas' laws comes after the Supreme Court struck down a portion of the Voting Rights Act, which forced Texas to get DOJ clearance before changing any election rules. During a speech Thursday in Philadelphia, Holder said redistricting in Texas last year proved discrimination still exists in the Lone Star State.

Gov. Rick Perry denies that and blasts the effort, telling us the move actually weakens Texas' voter integrity laws.

"This end-run around the Supreme Court undermines the will of the people of Texas, and casts unfair aspersions on our state's common-sense efforts to preserve the integrity of our elections process," Perry said.

Harris County Republican Chair Jared Woodfill agrees, saying the Supreme Court overturned that portion of the voting act for a reason.

"They understand that Texans are not racist, they're not discriminatory. And Eric Holder and the Obama justice department just don't like it," Woodfill said.

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