Holder: Justice Department Will ‘Vigorously Use’ Voting Rights Act Against States

By Matt Cover | June 7, 2012 | 12:23 PM EDT

Attorney General Eric Holder testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, June 7, 2012, before the House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing on the Justice Department. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

(CNSNews.com) – Attorney General Eric Holder told the House Judiciary Committee Thursday that the Justice Department will “vigorously use” anti-Jim Crow provisions in the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to prevent some southern states from purging ineligible voters from their rolls and enacting voter-I.D. laws.

"It is the position of this Department of Justice and certainly this Attorney General that we will vigorously defend and vigorously use Section 5. The need for it is still there."

Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act requires several southern states and counties in states such as California and Florida to get federal “pre-clearance” before they change any voting eligibility laws or voting requirements or procedures.

Originally, the provision was designed to combat the legacy of racist Jim Crow laws passed in some states to prevent black people from voting.

Although Holder stressed the "need" to “vigorously use” Section 5, he did not say which states he thinks are pursuing racist policies that require Justice Department interference.

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The Justice Department recently cited Section 5 in a letter to the state of Florida ordering it to stop an ongoing effort to purge ineligible voters from its rolls, focusing on illegal immigrants in particular. Five Florida counties are required to gain pre-clearance from Justice under Section 5.

Justice also blocked a South Carolina voter-I.D. law in December 2011, saying it violated Section 5’s prohibition on racially discriminatory voting laws. In March 2012, the department also blocked a Texas voter-I.D. law again saying that the requirement that people show a photo-I.D. to vote was racial discrimination.