Speaking in Houston at the annual conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, US Attorney General Eric Holder criticized “Voter ID” type laws - such as that imposed in Texas during the last session - calling them “poll taxes,” according to the New York Times:
The Justice Department’s vigorous enforcement of civil rights laws under Mr. Holder has been a hallmark of his tenure, drawing praise from liberals and helping to make him an object of sharp criticism from conservatives.
In speaking before the N.A.A.C.P., Mr. Holder, the nation’s first black attorney general, was ensured a far more supportive audience than he has frequently encountered before the Republican-led House of Representatives, which voted last month to cite him for contempt of Congress in a dispute over access to internal Justice Department documents related to the gun-trafficking investigation called Operation Fast and Furious.
Mr. Holder also lauded Supreme Court decisions last month that upheld the Obama administration’s health care law and struck down much of an Arizona statute cracking down on illegal immigrants, calling them both “monumental rulings” in which the court “broadly affirmed the government’s position as argued by the Justice Department.”
But he also said the Justice Department would keep a sharp eye on how Arizona implemented an important provision of the immigration law that the court did not strike down, which requires the police to check the immigration status of people they stop or arrest if they suspect them of being in the country illegally.
The court deferred judgment on that provision because the state has not yet started enforcing it, while leaving open the possibility of later “constitutional challenges to the law as it is interpreted and applied after it goes into effect.”
“No American should ever live under a cloud of suspicion just because of what they look like,” Mr. Holder said. “Going forward, we must ensure that Arizona law enforcement officials do not enforce this law in a manner that undermines the civil rights of Americans. In this work, I can assure you that the Department of Justice will continue to be vigilant.”
As Talking Points Memo reported, Mr. Holder went further in an ad-lib. After noting that many legitimate voters without a photo ID “would have to travel great distances to get them, and some would struggle to pay for the documents they might need to obtain them,” he added, “We call those poll taxes.” The comment about “poll taxes,” a tactic used by Southern states during the Jim Crow era to keep African-Americans from voting, was not part of his prepared remarks circulated among reporters.
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