Politics & Policy

Voter ID Is Not Jim Crow

In a speech at the LBJ Library at the University of Texas–Austin, Attorney General Eric Holder attacked efforts by state legislators to ensure the integrity of the ballot box. In a setting obviously designed to evoke Lyndon Johnson’s historic signing of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, Holder railed against voter-ID laws and other election-reform measures. While minimizing the danger of fraud, Holder seemed oblivious to the irony of doing so at the LBJ Library: It was, after all, the infamous Ballot Box 13 and the stolen 1948 election that launched LBJ’s political career.

As the government’s chief lawyer, Holder is tasked with enforcing federal election laws in an objective, nonpartisan, race-neutral manner. Instead, Holder parroted the talking points of the Democratic National Committee and racial-grievance organizations, falsely comparing voter-ID requirements and other election reforms with the violent efforts of state officials to keep black citizens from the polls a half-century ago. Holder claimed that such practices “remain all too common.”

#ad#This comparison insults the heroic work of so many who helped end the injustices of Jim Crow. It is also quite ironic to hear Holder refer to the fire hoses, bullets, bombs, and billy clubs that voters had to confront in the 1960s, given that his Justice Department dismissed the voter-intimidation lawsuit it had won by default against the New Black Panther Party and its billy-club-wielding thugs, who menaced voters in Philadelphia in 2008. His Justice Department has made it clear that it does not believe in the race-neutral enforcement of our voting-rights laws.

Holder also incorporated into his speech Rep. John Lewis’s absurd claim that election-reform efforts are “a deliberate and systematic attempt to prevent millions” of minority and other voters from going to the polls. This shows how the paranoid fantasies of the Left infect the attorney general and his entire department. Voter-ID laws have been in place in Georgia and Indiana for more than five years, and none of the hysterical claims made by opponents have materialized. As NRO has documented, turnout of minority voters did not decrease in those states — it increased significantly. Voters certainly disagree with Holder: Polls show overwhelming support for voter-ID laws across racial, ethnic, and party lines.

Holder said that the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division would “thoroughly” review these state policies and “apply the law.” But if that were an accurate description of how Holder’s Civil Rights Division evaluates voting laws, the voter-ID laws submitted by Texas and South Carolina for review under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act would have already been approved.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Indiana’s voter-ID law was constitutional, and the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals approved Georgia’s voter-ID law as nondiscriminatory. In fact, the Justice Department itself cleared Georgia’s law under the Voting Rights Act. Both of these laws are similar to the Texas and South Carolina policies that are now under review. Holder’s disregard of precedent is an improper and rank politicization of the process.

Holder’s foolish imaginings about voter-ID requirements should come as no surprise. After all, the government-transparency group Judicial Watch has discovered through a Freedom of Information Act request that the White House and the Justice Department have been consulting with — and getting recommendations on new hires from — current and former officials of ACORN, dozens of whose employees have been convicted of voter fraud.

Holder’s attitude should concern all Americans who want next year’s elections to be fair, secure, and overseen by an impartial and professional Department of Justice.

The Editors — The Editors comprise the senior editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

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