Holder Vows to Enforce Civil Rights Protections
AP | 12/16/2011, 1:27 p.m.
Republican Sen. John Cornyn, a former Texas attorney general, said voter identification laws are constitutional and necessary to prevent fraud at the ballot box.
"Facing an election challenge next year, this administration has chosen to target efforts by the states to protect the democratic process," said Cornyn, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Johnson's two daughters, Lynda Johnson Robb and Luci Baines Johnson, listened to Holder's speech from the front row of a packed auditorium with other family members.
Holder was appearing in a Republican-controlled state which has taken a redistricting dispute with civil rights groups all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Texas added four congressional seats based on population gains in the 2010 census. Minority groups sued in federal court in San Antonio, arguing the Legislature's redistricting maps did not reflect growth in the state's Hispanic and black populations.
Currently, minorities are the majority in 10 of Texas' 32 congressional districts. A new map drawn by a three-judge federal court in San Antonio would raise that to 13 out of 36 districts, an outcome the judges said better reflected the growth in the state's Hispanic population.
The state went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case and blocked the court-drawn maps pending the outcome of the lawsuit.
Earlier, a federal court in Washington had refused to approve the Texas Legislature's redistricting plan without a trial, agreeing with the U.S. Justice Department that there was sufficient evidence to question whether the Legislature hurt minority representation.
"The most recent census data indicated that Texas has gained more than 4 million new residents -- the vast majority of whom are Hispanic," said Holder. "However, this state has proposed adding zero additional seats in which Hispanics would have the electoral opportunity envisioned by the Voting Rights Act."
On the voter ID issue, Texas Democrats, voting-rights advocates and minority groups had harshly criticized the photo ID law, but were unable to block its passage in the Republican-controlled Legislature.