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July 29, 2013 11:11 AM Heads We Win, Tails You Lose

By Ed Kilgore

Anyone harboring the illusion that Congress was going to “fix” Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, invalidated by the Supreme Court in the Shelby County v. Holder decision, should closely watch the reaction of key Republicans to the Justice Department’s shift to a Section 3 strategy for securing the right to “preclear” voting restrictions in states with a history of discrimination.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee where a Voting Rights “fix” would almost certainly have to have strong support, seems to think Holder’s action shows the VRA doesn’t need to be fixed, per this Gannett report:

Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-6th, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, would be a key player in whatever course House Republicans follow. He noted Thursday that the Voting Rights Act still allows people to sue if they feel a voting procedure is unfair to minorities, and it still allows the Justice Department to subject cities, counties or states to pre-clearance if a federal court finds they intentionally discriminated.
“(These) procedures remain available today to those challenging voting rules as discriminatory,” Goodlatte said.

At the same time, though, Republicans from the states potentially affected by these alternative avenues for Voting Right Act enforcement, especially Texas, are calling them a deal-breaker in terms of positive congressional reaction, notes Roll Call’s Emma Dumain:

Republican members of the Lone Star State House delegation made their position clear to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Thursday: Don’t mess with Texas.
They also had another message for the head of the Justice Department: he might have just poisoned the well of future bipartisan House efforts to update the Voting Rights Act before the end of the 113th Congress.
“Ain’t gonna happen,” Rep. Joe L. Barton, R-Texas, said.

So any way you look at Holder’s Plan B for resisting a wave of new voting restrictions of the sort already passed in Texas and North Carolina, it’s an excuse to do nothing in Congress.

Why am I not surprised?

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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