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Attorney General Eric Holder, in Texas, slams state's voter ID law

Eric Holder, addressing a national NAACP convention in Houston, pledged to aggressively enforce voting and other civil rights laws and compared the Texas voter ID law to an illegal poll tax.

By Staff writer / July 10, 2012

Attorney General Eric Holder is welcomed at the NAACP annual convention in Houston. Holder says he opposes a new photo ID requirement in Texas elections because it would be harmful to minority voters.

AP Photo/Pat Sullivan

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US Attorney General Eric Holder, appearing Tuesday before a national NAACP convention in Houston, compared a controversial Texas voter ID law to an illegal poll tax and vowed to continue aggressively enforce voting and other civil rights laws.

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“We will not allow political pretexts to disenfranchise American citizens of their most precious rights,” Mr. Holder said to the cheering crowd.

The attorney general, who was recently found in contempt of Congress by the GOP-led House, has been at the forefront of an Obama administration strategy of challenging efforts by Republican-controlled state governments in areas of voting and immigration.

The attorney general’s comments came as a panel of three federal judges in Washington heard testimony in the second day of a weeklong trial to determine whether the Texas voter ID law violates the Voting Rights Act.

The 2011 Texas law requires would-be voters to present government-issued photo ID to cast a ballot. Texas officials defend the law as an effective deterrent to voter fraud.

A number of minority groups opposed the law, and the Justice Department blocked the measure, saying it would have a discriminatory impact on minority voting rights.

“In recent months, Texas has – in many ways – been the center of our national debate about voting rights issues,” Holder said.

Last fall, the Justice Department challenged the legality of redistricting plans drawn by the state’s Republican-controlled legislature. Now, the battle is over voter IDs.

“After close review, the Department found that this law would be harmful to minority voters – and we rejected its implementation,” he said.

The attorney general said the Texas law permits concealed handgun licenses as a valid voter ID but not student IDs.

He added that a recent national study had shown that while roughly 8 percent of white voting-age citizens lack government issued photo ID, 25 percent of prospective voters who are African-American do not possess acceptable identification.

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