Texas Two-StepAt the L.B.J. Library in Austin, Tex. on Tuesday night, Attorney General Eric Holder forcefully renewedthe Department of Justice’s commitment to protecting the right to vote. Invoking President Johnson’s remarks on signing the Voting Rights Actinto law in 1965, Holder said that the right to vote “is not only the cornerstone of our system of government — it is the lifeblood of our democracy.”In his speech, the attorney general exposed the coordinated campaign underway to deny the right to vote to millions of Americans, and pledged to use all of the weapons in the Justice Department arsenal to stop it. But advocacy to protect the right to vote is not enough to ensure that every American has a say in the future. We need to build a cultural movement for lifelong civic engagement that reflects the nation’s growing diversity, and it should be led by Latinos, African-Americans and young people. Contrary to national perceptions (thank you, Governor Perry), Texas is the ideal place to start this movement.
Texas was an ideal forum for Holder’s remarks for more reasons than one. The state has the second highest number of objections filed under the Voting Rights Act, surpassed only by Mississippi. And our far-right-dominated state legislature is a national leader in building new hurdles to keep Texans from the polls, most recently through one of the country’s most rigid mandatory photo ID laws. Because of its long history of minority disenfranchisement, Texas remains one of the nine states that continue to require Justice Department pre-clearance for changes to its voting rules and regulations.
Texas is also a central battleground for voting rights because of its explosive growth. We gained more than four million new residents in the 2010 census, with Latinos accounting for 65 percent of that growth and other ethnic minorities for another 24 percent, earning four new congressional districts in the process. What happens here matters nationally, both because of the sheer number of voters in the state and because we’re at the leading edge of a massive demographic shift. The legal battle over how to draw the new districts has been brewing for months and it is likely to have implications far beyond the state’s borders now that the Supreme Court has decided to hear the case.
Read the full story here: The New York Times
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