I have been preaching, along with other election law practitioners, that states like Texas, South Carolina, Georgia and others covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act should bypass the Holder Department of Justice and go straight to federal court to have redistricting plans approved. Voter ID legislation should take the same bypass around Eric Holder. Attorneys General from covered states (VA, NC, SC, GA, FL, AL, MS, LA, TX, AZ, CA, AK, NY, MI, NH, SD) should pay very close attention. Just because your state did it one way in 2000 or 1990 or 1980 doesn’t mean squat in 2011. Democrats control Justice for the first redistricting under the VRA.
If officials from these 16 states need to be bonked on the head one more time, they should read this National Journal piece – “Justice Issues Redistricting Guidelines.” “ The Justice Department will object to any map if it ‘determines that the jurisdiction has failed to show the absence of any discriminatory purpose,’ the guidelines state.” To anybody who has ever worked inside the DOJ and knows the personalities involved in the process, this is a plain obvious warning that they intend to flex muscle in the process, no doubt to achieve partisan ends. Lots of optimistic theories have been floated about in redistricting circles why it is cheaper and faster to go to DOJ instead of federal court. These theories are almost always floated by people who never worked inside or managed the Voting Section at Justice. Anyone who has worked on the inside will tell you it will be faster and fairer - and probably in the end cheaper – to go straight to federal court and bypass Eric Holder. Citizens from the 16 covered jurisdictions should be concerned if their state plods along with voter ID and redistricting as they always have, and go to DOJ for approval. It means Voter ID has a good chance of never becoming law in your state.