Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Attorney General Holder Calls Texas' Voter Photo I.D. Law A Poll Tax

Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday likened Texas' Senate Bill 14 (SB 14) voter photo I.D. law to a “poll tax” that was outlawed by the 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“As many of you know, yesterday was the first day in the trial of a case that the state of Texas filed against the Justice Department under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act seeking approval of it’s proposed voter ID law,” Holder told attendees of the 103rd convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). (Texas Voter Photo I.D. Federal Trial Opening Arguments)

Eric H. Holder, Jr., Attorney General of the United States speaking at the 103rd convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)

Holder stated that, "After close review, the department found that this law would be harmful to minority voters and we rejected its implementation."

“Under the proposed law, concealed handgun licenses would be acceptable forms of photo ID, but student IDs would not,” the attorney general continued. “Many of those without IDs would have to travel great distances to get them. And some would struggle to pay for the documents they might need to obtain them. ... We call those poll taxes.”

The attorney general said he couldn’t predict what would happen in the Texas case, but he promised to “not allow political pretext to disenfranchise American citizens of their most precious right.”

“The arc of American history has always moved towards expanding the electorate,” Holder said. “We will simply not allow this era to be the reversal of that historic progress. I will not allow that to happen.”

In opening arguments of the photo I.D. trial DOJ trial attorney Elizabeth Westfall said that a disproportionate number of the 1.4 million Texans who do not have the proper ID are black or Hispanic.

Poll taxes were a part of Jim Crow-era laws that were used largely in southern states to disenfranchise minority voters. The 24th Amendment abolished poll taxes in federal elections and the Supreme Court later banned them in state elections as a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

Click here for full text of Attorney General Holder's speech as prepared for delivery.


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