In a speech last week in Austin, Texas, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder affirmed his commitment to protecting the right to vote and indicated that the Department of Justice will be thoroughly reviewing new state voting laws to determine whether they are discriminatory.
Speaking at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library & Museum, Holder invoked the momentous passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, saying that it is his duty as Attorney General to enforce the law, which was signed by President Johnson and championed by many civil rights groups. He reminded Americans that this is not only a legal issue, but a “moral imperative” that “must become our common cause.”
“The right to vote is not only the cornerstone of our system of government – it is the lifeblood of our democracy,” said Holder, who went on to assert: “We need election systems that are free from fraud, discrimination, and partisan influence – and that are more, not less, accessible to the citizens of this country.”
Holder’s remarks were delivered amid a wave of recent voting laws passed by states that civil and human rights advocate view as creating barriers to the ballot. Such measures include requiring government-issued photo IDs, reducing early and absentee voting periods, limiting third-party voter registration drives, and restricting the voting rights of citizens with felony convictions. “The reality is that – in jurisdictions across the country – both overt and subtle forms of discrimination remain all too common,” said Holder.
The Leadership Conference and its coalition partners are working to prevent the enactment of additional laws restricting voting rights and will be mounting efforts to ensure that all eligible voters have the opportunity to cast a ballot on Election Day.
“These efforts [to pass new voting laws] amount to a coordinated campaign of intimidation intended to suppress the political will and empowerment of minorities, seniors, students, and low-income working people,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “Restricting access to the polls is another effort to limit opportunity for many Americans.”