Nightly News   |  July 25, 2013

DOJ signals state-by-state approach to voting law changes

The Justice Department opened a new front in the battle over voting rights in response to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, one month ago, that weakened the landmark Voting Rights Act. NBC’s Pete Williams reports.

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>> back in this country, one month since the supreme court struck down the heart of the landmark voting rights act . and the obama administration has now opened a big new front in the battle over voting rights. going after strict new voting laws in the state of texas and promising that is just the start of it. our report tonight from our justice correspondent pete williams .

>> reporter: in a bold response to the supreme court 's ruling on the voting rights act attorney general eric holder said the justice department is asking a federal judge to force texas to get court approval before changing how it conducts elections.

>> we believe the state of texas should be required to go through a preclearance process whenever it changes its voting laws and practices.

>> reporter: a month ago the supreme court struck down the map of where the preclearance requirement aplayed automatically, mostly in the south. now the justice department is signaling it will go state-by-state seeking to revive the requirement where it can find proof of continuing discrimination at the polls.

>> it shows the voting rights act is not dead, shows a way toward the future of the voting rights act in which coverage of areas of the country not based on formulas from 1960 or 70.

>> reporter: today's action challenges the plan by the republican controlled texas legislature to redraw the boundari boundaries. la tinno groups say it awarded too little representation to the fastest growing part of the population. it is likely the justice department will challenge the tough new voter id law. texas sought to revive both provisions the very day the supreme court ruled. and north carolina moved to toughen its laws including reduction in early voting hours originally extended to reduce waiting time. texas officials say the attorney general's move is pure politics.

>> it appears to be a vindictive act in light of the u.s. supreme court striking down the preclearance requirement for a handful of states in claweding texas .

>> reporter: members of the national urban league , where holder made his announcement said discrimination at the polls has not gone away.

>> many of the people here work hard against voter suppression efforts in the 2012 election cycle.

>> reporter: texas is only the beginning the next target could be north carolina if shorter voting hours take effect next year. pete williams , nbc news at the justice department .