SID SALTER: Holder, feds seek BYPASS on voting rights issues



On the battle over the government shutdown, the Obama administration narrative continues to be that Republicans shut down the government because they didn’t get their way on Obamacare.

There may be some truth to that, but if so, Republicans don’t have the market cornered on playing hardball for do-overs on public policy.

President Obama and his surrogates continue to repeat that narrative at every opportunity. Clearly, the Obama administration doesn’t see the parallel between GOP actions on Obamacare and the very same tactics on the part of the Obama administration’s U.S. Justice Department on the issue of voter ID and the recent Supreme Court decision on the Voting Rights Act.

The argument that Voter ID equates with voter suppression is bogus and the majority of the Supreme Court has ruled that Section 5 unfairly discriminates against a region of the country.

On the topic of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has been downright defiant in protecting the institutionalization of laws from the 1960s that profile Southern states as racist havens of voter discrimination. First came litigation in Texas and now Holder is taking North Carolina to court to argue that new elections laws there are intentionally discriminatory and that Section 3 of the VRA would make the state subject to Justice Department preclearance as Section 5 did.

Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act established nine states that were declared “covered jurisdictions” under the new laws. States included in the “covered jurisdiction” by the Voting Rights Act include: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia.

Even after the Supreme Court ruled that Section 5 was unconstitutional on that basis, Holder not only decried the ruling and called for the need for two sets of elections laws – one for the covered jurisdictions and another for the rest of the country – he vowed to pursue a campaign of lawsuits in the covered jurisdiction states to keep preclearance in place by arguing “intentional discrimination.”

That legal strategy is based on attacking states or jurisdictions for their history.

Trying to institutionalize Section 5’s inherent mistrust of voters and governments in the South to protect voting rights and hold fair elections is nothing short of racial and political profiling.

Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann has declared his intention to move forward with the Voter ID law approved overwhelmingly by Mississippi voters.

Hosemann argues that Mississippi’s law is different those being challenged in North Carolina and Texas. But many expect federal litigation in Mississippi as well.

Exactly how Republicans trying to re-litigate Obamacare differs from the Obama administration’s efforts to re-litigate Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is a mystery.

Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at (601) 507-8004 or

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  • Kevin

    I don’t think section 5 unfairly discriminates against a section of the country. I think historically speaking the region of the country affected by section 5 has a long, sordid history of discriminating against both the impoverished and against minorities. For that very reason, the Obama administration is very justified in trying to do an end around the Court, which designed its decision based on the political leanings of the majority of justices.

  • Dat Dam Dem

    Comparing the GOP minority holding the government hostage for repealing or “defunding” a duly passed and adjudicated existing law to the DOJ using the laws available to protect voting rights is about the most asinine thing I have ever heard! SCOTUS only struck down the Section 4 formula of who has to preclear. They left intact the preclearance section itself (Section 5) and Section 3, which is the “bail in” provision that allows DOJ to seek preclearence for jurisdictions that enact policies that interfere with voting rights. That would indicate that they see a need for and no constitutional issues with the concept of preclearance. Whether or not Voter ID in and of itself is voter suppression is a matter of opinion – which I believe it is – but it is undeniable that Voter ID coupled with other laws, any sane person can see as a concerted effort to target certain demographics and discourage voting, and “shrink” the electorate. The only thing that was ever wrong with Section 5 of the VRA is that it did not apply to every jurisdiction in the entire country.

    • Kevin

      Well, what do you expect from Sid Salter? He’s an overpaid public relations hack at Mississippi State and his overblown $150,000 per year salary probably comes in part from federal grants to the school. Moreover, he’s a do-nothing lackey over there at State; they created the position just for him. He got his current job because the Clarion-Ledger cleaned house several years ago, firing people at the top of the pay scale and his friends at State bailed his butt out. Salter is about as useless as a stick, and the sum total of all his op-eds is=Democrats bad, Republicans good.