The Republican governor of Texas today welcomed President Obama to the Lone Star State by asking him to distance himself from comments made by Attorney General Eric Holder comparing the state’s 2011 voter identification law to a “poll tax,” the Jim Crow-era laws that were declared unconstitutional in 1937. “Perhaps while the President is visiting Texas, he can take a break from big-dollar fundraisers to disavow his Attorney General’s offensive and incendiary comments regarding our common-sense voter identification law,” Gov. Rick Perry said in a statement. “In labeling the Texas voter ID law as a ‘poll tax,’ Eric Holder purposefully used language designed to inflame passions and incite racial tension. It was not only inappropriate, but simply incorrect on its face. The president should apologize for Holder’s imprudent remarks and for his insulting lawsuit against the people of Texas.”
In a speech to the NAACP one week ago, Holder said that under Texas’s law “many of those without IDs would have to travel great distances to get them and some would struggle to pay for the documents they might need to obtain them. We call those poll taxes.”
Last week, a three-judge panel in U.S. District Court in Washington. D.C.. heard arguments in the stand-off between the Obama administration and the state of Texas over the law.While the voter ID itself is free, the Obama administration argues that the documentation required to obtain an ID – such as a birth certificate – is not.
In his remarks, the attorney general specifically said that the Texas law would be “harmful to minority voters” because 25 percent of African Americans lack the required identification needed to obtain a voter I.D., as opposed to eight percent of whites.
“Especially in recent months, Texas has – in many ways – been at the center of our national debate about voting rights issues,” Holder said. “Let me be clear: we will not allow political pretexts to disenfranchise American citizens of their most precious right.”‘
-Jake Tapper and Arlette Saenz