All In   |  July 25, 2013

Eric Holder to go after Texas on voting rights

Chris Hayes talks about Eric Holder's announcement with Texas Congressman Marc Veasey and Julie Fernandes.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> good evening, from new york. i'm chris hayes . tonight on "all in" we have heard from another juror in the trayvon martin case . the one nonwhite juror who spoke on abc today and said "george zimmerman got away with murder." we'll be talking about that coming up.

>>> also tonight, john boehner has a cantaloupe-sized steve king problem. and the longer it goes on, the worse it is for the speaker of the house .

>>> plus, sex scandals and second chances. america seems always ready to forgive the men involved. what about the women? that's all coming up.

>>> tonight, we begin with texas , once again, locked in a fierce battle with the federal government . this time over voting . you see, texas probably thought they were in the clear after the supreme court struck down section 4 of the voting rights act last month. this morning, attorney general eric holder speaking at the national urban league in philadelphia said not so fast.

>> today i am announcing that the justice department will ask a federal court in texas to subject the state of texas to a preclearance regime similar to the one required by section 5 of the voting rights act .

>> what holder announced today is an aggressive and crafty step by the federal government to try and limit the damage caused by the supreme court last month. by using a little known part of the law left in tact, section 3 of the voting rights act which says the federal government could go to court basically grab a jurisdiction and yank it under federal control.

>> based on the evidence of intentional racial discrimination that was presented just last year in the redistricting case of texas v. holder, as well as the history of pervasive voting-related discrimination against racial minorities that the supreme court , itself, has recognized we believe that the state of texas should be required to go through a preclearance process whenever it changes its voting laws and practices.

>> texas along with many of the states of the old confederacy responded to the supreme court 's ruling with glee. and with new or previously blocked restrictive voting laws. within hours of the ruling, texas attorney general praised the voting rights decision and announced the state's voter i.d. law which was blocked by a federal court last year would "take effect immediately." that law is only one of two voting laws that have been blocked by federal courts in texas over the last year. now, given the state's proclivity to passing restrictive voting laws, it should come as no shock that today's step from the obama justice department has set off a flurry of angry responses from texas officials. including governor rick perry who said of the announcement, "once again, the obama administration is demonstrating utter contempt for a country system of checks and balances, not to mention the u.s. constitution ." we all know there's nothing texas loves more than a standoff with the federal government . today eric holder let them know that's exactly what they're going to get. joining me now is congressman mark visi, from texas , who represents areas of dallas and ft. worth. name plaintiff in a federal lawsuit challenging texas ' new voter i.d. law. congressman, my first question to you is, given the fact there's a lot of texas pride and texans don't like to be told what to by the federal government , does today's actions by the department of justice put you in an awkward position politically in your home state and home district ?

>> no, it does not put me in a politically awkward situation. as a matter of fact, i applaud the attorney general for what he's doing. chris , you may remember a couple l weeks ago i actually filed suit in corpus christi to stop the voter i.d. law from being implemented and i'm also a plaintiff on the reticketing case as well. discrimination anywhere is bad, especially in texas . everyone should come together regardless of what party they're in to make sure all voters are treated equally and with respect. i applaud the attorney general and thank him for his actions today.

>> do you think texas has a history of racially discriminatory laws? the standard that has to be met, in their intent, if you're adhering to this theory is the members of the texas state legislature in doing redistricting, in passing laws, for voter i.d. intend to racially discriminate .

>> chris , not only does texas have a history of discrimination, it's a recent history. when you look at the recent findings by courts, in regards to the voter i.d. law that the republicans tried to pass that would have disenfranchised thousands of latino and african-american voters, when you look at redistricting, when you look at the republican party 's embrace of groups like the king street patriots that seek to disenfranchise minority voters, both latino and african-american. it's clear that not only does texas have a history of discrimination, but texas has a very recent history of discrimination that is bad and it needs to be stopped. and that's why i applaud the attorney general for what he did today. if any state needs to opt in to section 5, it needs to be texas .

>> texas republicans have been remarkly brazen by all of this, and remarkably -- by the federal government 's actions to block them in the past. is this going to be any different or something rick perry and the other republicans of texas can kind of gloat over that they're taking on the hated obama administration and standing up for texas ?

>> you know, sadly, they probably will gloat. you know, again, discrimination is something that we should all band together to fight. why they would wan to gloat against discriminatie ining against the fastest growing ethnic groups in the state? when you look at the state of texas , chris , for instance, between 2000 and 2010 , texas was the fastest growing state of any other place in the union. 90% of that growth between 2000 and 2010 was latino and african-american. why the republicans would want to discriminate against latino and african-american voters instead of trying to do outreach continues to puzzle many, and i think that it's a bad thing. we all need to band together to stop these sort of action and need to be doing everything we can to get everyone to vote. trying to limit the right of individuals to vote and to exercise their suffrage is a bad thing and it's not the friendly texas thing to do.

>> well, that's very supporting. i spr have a theory or two why republicans might want to restrict the franchise for the people you named. congressman marc veasey of texas . thank you for joining us. j joining me at the table, julia fernandez. now a senior policy analyst with the open society institute . i did not know what section three of the voting rights act was until today. i consider myself a little bit of a voting rights act buff. what is section 3 ? what is the federal government doing here? why do they have the authority to do it?

>> section 3 is the provision in the voting rights act that has been there since 1965 . it allows federal courts to order certain jurisdictions, the preclearance obligations if they feel that organization is engaged in --

>> to walk people through this, you have this map that is covered by section 5 which is preclearance, right?

>> correct.

>> section 4 is the part of the act that draws the map. these are the places, you have to two to the federal government and be like, is this cool we do this? they say yes or no. section 3 says we're not going to limit the area simply to that map because things may change. in the future federal government , you have the power to go to court and grab people and say, okay, you're going to be subject to preclearance.

>> they have the ability to -- the attorney general or private plaintiffs can go to a federal court and say we think this jurisdiction is discriminating and we think if you find they've been discriminating where it's intentional and there are other factors present that make you worried about their future, intention discrimination or discrimination against minority voters, cover them under the preclearance regime. the section 5 preclearance regime always had a way in and a way out.

>> this is the way in. here's my question. we're hearing about the law that's been proposed by republicans in north carolina . that is being called the most restrictive voter law ever anywhere in the country. it's going to make it much harder for a lot of people to vote. could the federal government or private parties use this section 3 of the voting rights act to stop that law in north carolina as well or any laws wherever they might be across the country?

>> i think the question that congress is going to have to look at, because congress is right now looking at whether or not the tools that are left in the voting rights act after shelby county are enough to protect minority voters. and what they're going to have to look at is whether or not 3-c is a realistic mechanism, the way it's currently drafted in order to have the worst actors brought into a preclearance regime to stop discrimination. and are the other parts of the statute also sufficient? so this is -- 3-c is not a panacea as it's currently written and i think no one sees it that way. this, what's hatppened in texas , is an example of how it could be used. there's lots of questions for congress to answer about the effectiveness.

>> what i'm hearing from you is this is a creative playing of a bad hand that has been dealt to the justice department in the wake of the supreme court 's reckless decision. but it is not in any way a substitute for the part of the act, the heart of the act, the preclearance provision which has been rendered moot by the supreme court .

>> part of this, texas redistricting is very high profile. tons of people are in this case.

>> it's our "a" block tonight. we're starting the show with it.

>> the civil rights group have been litigating this stuff. there's tons of resources going into it. for the most part for most voting changes, that's not the case. in counties, parishes, schools, across the country. affirmative litigation will never be the way.

>> you sat in the building, department of justice looking at the applications from those places.

>> in doj when we had the preclearance regime before shelby county , we would get submissions from lots and lots of places around where discrimination was happening no.

>> julie fernandes with the open society institute . thank you so