EDITORIAL: The Texas two-step

Eric Holder corrects and tutors the Supreme Court

In a June 2009 speech intended to improve relations with the Arab and Muslim world, President Obama said he would “extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.” The states get no such respect. Mr. Obama and his attorney general, Eric Holder, prefer the clenched fist.

Mr. Holder and the Justice Department went back to court Thursday to demand that Texas election officials be put back in the thrall of the federal government, by requiring “pre-clearance” of voting-law changes. This is exactly what the high court said in June that Texas and several other states no longer are required to do, that earlier sins have been atoned. Mr. Holder won’t take no for an answer. He accused the Texas Legislature, controlled by Republicans, of intentionally discriminating against blacks and Hispanics with its new voter-ID requirement and congressional redistricting map.

“We will not allow the Supreme Court’s recent decision to be interpreted as open season for states to pursue measures that suppress voting rights,” said the confused Mr. Holder, trapped in a time warp of his own making, where poll taxes and literacy tests still bar minorities from the ballot box. “We will keep fighting aggressively to prevent voter disenfranchisement.” There’s scant evidence of that happening in Texas or anywhere else, although Mr. Holder’s own Justice Department last week arrested a woman in Texas for voting five times in a primary last year. It’s just that kind of illegality that voter-ID laws are intended to prevent — or “suppress,” to borrow the attorney general’s formulation.

The Texas governor, Rick Perry, a Republican, accuses Messrs. Obama and Holder of filing “endless litigation in an effort to obstruct the will of the people of Texas” and vowed the state would “continue to defend the integrity of our elections against this administration’s blatant disregard for the 10th Amendment.” As well it should, and North Carolina is probably the next target. Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, too, signed a series of voting-integrity measures into law Aug. 12 in Raleigh.

Mr. Holder’s contempt for what Secretary of State Kris Kobach of Kansas rightly calls “the states’ sovereign authority to control their elections” could derail efforts in Congress to reach bipartisan agreement on updating the Voting Rights Act. “The Justice Department lawsuit would make it much more difficult to pass a bipartisan fix to restore the heart of the VRA that the Supreme Court struck down earlier this year,” said Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., the Wisconsin Republican who led the reauthorization of the law back in 2006. He urges Mr. Holder to withdraw the Texas lawsuit, so far to no avail.

We don’t think the Voting Rights Act should be restored at all; this is not 1950, despite Mr. Holder’s wishes and dreams. His attempt to rewrite the Supreme Court’s opinion to suit his fantasies is exactly why putting such authority in the hands of a vengeful attorney general is such a frightening idea.

The Washington Times

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