By U.S. SEN. JOHN CORNYN
WASHINGTON – In June, the Supreme Court held that Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act was unconstitutional. The provision, which determined the states and jurisdictions that would have to ask the Justice Department for permission to implement any voting law, was based on outdated data from the 1960s and ’70s.
The data came from an era of obscene racial discrimination that bears little resemblance to the reality of today. In the intervening years, Texas and other states have repudiated that sad and unjust era, and made great strides towards voter equality. In today’s America, access to voting booths and voting information is broad and not subject to discrimination.
So the question must be asked: Why are President Barack Obama and his Attorney General, Eric Holder, so upset about this decision? The answer is as simple as it is disturbing: partisan politics.
Section 4 determined which states were subject to “pre-clearance,” a procedure under which Texas — and other covered jurisdictions — had to seek permission for any change to voting law. Until the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 as unconstitutional, Texas needed permission from the Justice Department to implement even a change in a polling place. That arrangement was good for Eric Holder.
Take voter ID as an example. In 2011, Texas adopted a commonsense voter ID law. It requires voters to present one of a number of approved forms of photo ID at the polling place, just like you have to do to buy beer or get on a plane. The state offers voter ID cards free of charge. And the law allows voters unable to present a valid photo ID to cast a provisional ballot and return within a week with proper identification. It even makes exceptions for people who have a religious objection to being photographed or lost their ID as a result of a recent national disaster.