Eric Holder says he'll mess with Texas

PHOTOS: ASSOCIATED PRESS Jeff Anoka , of Hanover, Md., applauds Attorney General Eric Holder yesterday at the end of his remarks at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia.
PHOTOS: ASSOCIATED PRESS Jeff Anoka , of Hanover, Md., applauds Attorney General Eric Holder yesterday at the end of his remarks at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia.
Posted: July 26, 2013

U.S. ATTORNEY General Eric Holder declared yesterday that he will ask a federal court in Texas to require the state to receive "preclearance" for any changes to election laws there.

Holder was speaking in an "emergency town hall on voting rights and justice" at the National Urban League's annual conference here in Philadelphia.

Holder said he was "deeply disappointed" in the U.S. Supreme Court's June 25 decision to strike down the preclearance requirement in the 1965 Voting Rights Act for nine Southern states, including Texas, along with parts of six other states with a history of discriminating against voters.

Holder last week announced he was ordering the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division to shift resources to enforce the parts of the Voting Rights Act left intact by the ruling. He made that announcement at the annual convention in Florida of the NAACP, another group angered by the ruling.

In both speeches, Holder cited a federal court's finding last year that a Texas plan to redraw congressional district boundaries discriminated against Latino voters.

He said yesterday that he may also require preclearance for a Texas voter-ID law that had been blocked but then implemented after last month's ruling.

Holder, in both speeches, cited the role of preclearance in blocking a South Carolina voter-ID law last year.

He did not mention the current legal battle in Pennsylvania's Commonwealth Court regarding this state's voter-ID law.

Although last month's ruling eliminated standing preclearance, it left in place an option allowing for federal courts to order preclearance of voting-law changes "when intentional voting discrimination is found," Holder said yesterday.

"This is the department's first action to protect voting rights following the [Supreme Court's] decision, but it will not be our last," Holder told about 2,200 National Urban League delegates.

That may be a signal that more challenges from the Department of Justice to states with voter ID laws are on the way.

Holder also urged the U.S. Congress to update and strengthen the Voting Rights Act.

"After all, this has never been a partisan issue," Holder told the crowd. "It's a question of our values as a nation."

The Voting Rights Act has been reauthorized by the U.S. Congress four times from 1970 to 2006, each time signed back into law by a Republican president.

Toomey for McConnell

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey's political-action committee wasted no time this week getting behind the candidacy of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky now facing a tea-party challenger in the 2014 primary election.

We asked about Toomey's support for two reasons:

* He unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter in the 2004 Republican primary. Toomey complained then that Specter was not conservative enough.

* The team that managed and communicated for Toomey's successful 2010 Senate run is now working for Matt Bevin, the tea partier challenging McConnell.

"I support Mitch McConnell, and I support his re-election in 2014," Toomey said in a news release sent to us 14 minutes after we asked the question this week.

New RNC guy for Pa.

Speaking of the 2010 Toomey team, another member just became Pennsylvania director for the Republican National Committee. Nick Trainer's new job was announced Wednesday by RNC chairman Reince Priebus as one of 12 new state directors.

"We're building the most expansive field program the GOP has ever seen, and we're doing it earlier than ever before," Priebus said, his focus clearly on the 2016 presidential election.

While Pennsylvania's General Assembly is firmly in the hands of a Republican majority, the GOP hasn't won a presidential election here in a quarter-century.


Email: brennac@phillynews.com

Phone: 215-854-5973

On Twitter: @ChrisBrennanDN

Blog: ph.ly/phillyclout

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