Attorney General Eric Holder told a council of African American church leaders Wednesday that the “sacred” right to vote is under assault nationwide, with federal lawsuits and at least a dozen state laws that could weaken — or block — minority access to the ballot box this fall.
Forty-seven years after President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, “overt and subtle forms of discrimination still exists,” Holder said in a speech before the Council of Black Churches. The twin factors of lingering bias and systematic assaults from the right, he said, means that “for the first time in our [lifetimes], we are failing to live up to one of our most noble ideals” – the right to equal access to the vote.
The brief speech was a call to arms for the black church, which since the days of the civil rights movement has been active in fighting for equal voting right for minorities. Holder, who was warmly received by the audience, told them his office is “aggressively” taking on the task of protecting that right, including challenging several state lawsuits that would overturn key provisions of the Voting Rights Act involving redistricting in Southern states and strict new voter I’d laws that could keep minorities, the elderly and young people of all races from casting ballots in the 2012 election – which analysts expect will be decided by a narrow margin.