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Holder’s Identity Problem
For Attorney General Eric Holder, life must present a hellish vista of pervasive racist practices.

Attorney General Eric Holder

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Rich Lowry

Wherever he goes, people are required to show identification. When cashing a check. When signing up for a library card. When boarding a plane. When entering certain office buildings. When checking into hotels. When (in the case of the youthful-looking) buying a beer or cigarettes, or entering a bar. The tyranny of the photo ID is so all-encompassing that people can’t enter Holder’s own Justice Department without showing one.

Holder is outraged that in a nation where requests for photo ID are ubiquitous, more and more states are requiring that people show them when they vote. In a speech last year, Holder characterized these voter-ID laws as an assault on the voting rights that Congressman John Lewis — the hero of Edmund Pettus Bridge — fought for in the mid-1960s. Back then, blacks in the South had to fear for their safety if they showed up at the courthouse to try to register to vote. Now, states are merely asking everyone, regardless of race, to show identification that is readily available to all, regardless of race.

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That Holder can equate the fight against voter ID to the struggles of the 1960s demonstrates a moral obtuseness insulting to the memory of the civil-rights pioneers. His Justice Department is now blocking a new voter-ID law in Texas, after doing the same to a South Carolina law. It argues that the Texas statute will disproportionally affect poor Latinos and therefore violate the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Why would the yokels in Texas do something so outrageous as ask that people prove who they are at polling places? It is obviously a basic check against fraud. Requiring an ID to vote was one of the proposals in 2005 of the Commission on Federal Election Reform, chaired by Jimmy Carter and James Baker, neither of whom had previously been noted for his hostility to minorities or the poor.

Analyzing Texas data, the Justice Department contends that anywhere from 6 percent to 10 percent of Hispanic registered voters don’t have ID. It piles up a parade of horribles — no cars, great distances, inconvenient hours — for why such potential voters can’t get to an office to acquire one, even though the state’s Department of Public Safety will issue election-identification certificates for free.

The experience of other states with voter-ID laws suggests that minorities are not the hapless victims that Holder’s Justice Department portrays them to be. Hans von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation points out that black turnout increased in Georgia in 2008, the first election under a voter-ID law, more than it did in Mississippi, which didn’t have such a law. A study by the University of Delaware and the University of Nebraska–Lincoln concluded that “concerns about voter-identification laws affecting turnout are much ado about nothing.”

Before his next speech, Holder should bone up on the Supreme Court’s 6–3 decision in 2008 upholding Indiana’s voter-ID law. The liberal Justice John Paul Stevens wrote the majority opinion. The Court held that “there is no question about the legitimacy or importance of the State’s interest in counting only the votes of eligible voters,” and “we cannot conclude that the statute imposes ‘excessively burdensome requirements’ on any class of voters.” The decision cited the finding of a district judge that plaintiffs had “not introduced evidence of a single, individual Indiana resident who will be unable to vote as a result of the law.” Presumably, if the Indiana law had represented the recrudescence of Jim Crow, the nation’s highest court would have noticed.

Not that any of this matters to Attorney General Holder. Just as the administration is manufacturing a “war on women,” he wants to manufacture a “war on voting rights.” It is the same MO of fevered rhetoric and distortions in the service of the same end of motivating key voting blocs.

Holder’s tenure as the government’s top lawyer is an ongoing disgrace. 

Rich Lowry is editor of National Review. He can be reached via e-mail, [email protected]. © 2012 by King Features Syndicate.



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