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Attorney General Eric Holder warned African-American church leaders on Wednesday that a slew of state laws and federal lawsuits threaten to block access to the voting booth for many minorities and young people around the nation.
Holder's short keynote speech to the Council of Black Churches was something of a rallying cry for blacks and their like-minded allies who fear that a state-level push ostensibly aimed at cracking down on voter fraud will, in reality, do little more than to disenfranchise minority voters.
With echoes of Martin Luther King and the 1960s civil rights movement, Holder affirmed the commitment of his office to protecting the "sacred" right to vote of every eligible American, telling the receptive crowd that nearly half a century after Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, "we have not yet reached the Promised Land."
In the past two years, more than a dozen states have passed laws tightening voter ID restrictions, which African American leaders fear will disenfranchise urban and low-income black voters who may not have a driver’s license or other state-issued photo ID, as Politico explains in its coverage of Holder's speech.
Redistricting is the main threat in other areas. In Texas, for example, the Justice Department has found evidence that proposed electoral maps were revised to minimize the influence of minority voters. Administration lawyers are "aggressively" tackling the issue, Holder reported. In the past year, his department has opened more than 100 voting-related cases, a record high.
Turnout among minority voters is expected to play a crucial role in this year's election, as it did in 2008 when Obama defeated John McCain in a November showdown. The New York Times reported back in April that Obama's team has already launched an effort to reach out to such voters in regions impacted by the new, tighter voting laws in a move to ensure they still cast ballots this year.