Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg not surprised by push for voter ID laws

Her remarks come as the Justice Department attempts new ways to protect voter rights after a June Supreme Court decision

(Charles Dharapak/AP Photo)

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said this week that she's not surprised Southern states have pushed ahead with tough voter-identification laws and other measures since the Supreme Court freed them from strict federal oversight of their elections.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Ginsburg noted that Texas officials decided to implement a new voter-ID law within hours of the court's decision last month to invalidate a key part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Ginsburg’s remarks, which were publicly released Friday but registered Wednesday, came a day before the Justice Department said it would try to bring Texas and other places back under federal oversight through a part of the law that was not challenged.

"The notion that because the Voting Rights Act had been so tremendously effective we had to stop it didn't make any sense to me," Ginsburg said in an interview with the AP at her Supreme Court office. "And one really could have predicted what was going to happen."

In the June decision based on a case from Alabama, Shelby County v. Holder, Chief Justice John Roberts, the author of the majority opinion, said it was no longer fair to subject those jurisdictions to strict federal monitoring based on data that is at least 40 years old.

The "extraordinary intrusion on state power" to conduct elections could only be justified by current conditions, Roberts said.

"There is no denying, however, that the conditions that originally justified these measures no longer characterize voting in the covered jurisdictions," he said in his decision.

For her part, Ginsburg said in her dissent that discarding the law was "like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet."

Just a month removed from the decision, she said, "I didn't want to be right, but sadly I am."

On Thursday, Attorney General Holder said the first move for the administration to act on voting rights, in the aftermath of the Shelby County decision, would be to ask a federal court in San Antonio to require Texas to obtain advance approval before putting in place future political redistricting or other voting changes.

"Even as Congress considers updates to the Voting Rights Act in light of the court's ruling, we plan, in the meantime, to fully utilize the law's remaining sections to ensure that the voting rights of all American citizens are protected," Holder said in a speech to the National Urban League, a civil rights organization, in Philadelphia.

"This is the department's first action to protect voting rights following the Shelby County decision, but it will not be our last," Holder said to a standing ovation.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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