Less than a month after the Supreme Court lifted an outdated “preclearance” formula off the backs of states like Texas, Eric Holder’s Justice Department is trying to reinstate the restrictions by inviting judicial activism.
The move comes in response to the Supreme Court’s invalidation of a coverage formula in Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Previously, states with a history of racial discrimination had to seek Justice Department approval – preclearance – before enacting any changes to their election laws. The problem for states like Texas is that the formula for deciding which jurisdictions are required to submit to preclearance hasn’t been updated in decades, making it virtually impossible to get out from under the federal government’s thumb.
In striking down Section 5’s coverage formula, the Court said that Congress is free to create a new formula based on current data. But with the legislative branch divided, few think any action is imminent.
And so, in keeping with the Obama administration’s motto “We Can’t Wait,” Attorney General Holder announced today that his department won’t wait for Congress to update the law. Instead, lawyers at Justice are filing lawsuits against Texas and other jurisdictions seeking to reinstate preclearance on a case-by-case basis.
The cost to taxpayers will be huge, since both sides of the “v.” are government employees. Each federal judge hearing a case will act as a mini-Congress by making factual findings before crafting a rule of law to determine the outcome. Of course, these decisions will be litigated up the lengthy federal appellate chain; all the way to the Supreme Court, if possible.
What makes this an affront to the constitutional design of separation-of-powers is the deliberate intent of one arm of the executive branch to invite members of the judiciary to make laws that Congress will not pass.
Granted, for well-connected attorneys like Holder it’s cheaper to litigate the Left’s pet projects on the taxpayer’s dime rather than as a private lawyer working pro bono. But as Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry said in response, Holder’s actions really amount to “utter contempt for our country’s system of checks and balances.”