After having to reschedule his talk at the NAACP national conference, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder rolled into the George R. Brown Tuesday with a soaring speech concentrating on voting rights — the central theme of this year's convention and a timely topic as Holder's office reviews Texas' photo ID requirement for elections.
While he may not appear on November ballots, like the anticipated upcoming NAACP power speakers Mitt Romney and Joe Biden, the attorney general was in full election mode, touting the many achievements of the Justice Department since 2008 and offering greetings from Barack Obama himself.
"Listen to this," Holder said about the ID requirement for Texas voters . "Under the proposed law, concealed handgun licenses would be acceptable forms of photo ID, but student IDs would not."
Looming over the speech, of course, was Holder's recent charge of contempt in the partisan-fueled congressional investigation into Operation Fast and Furious. The attorney general cleared the air right from the start, however, joking about how nice it was to be out of DC before launching into a range of issues currently facing the NAACP.
The nationwide legislative trend to restrict voting rights was at the top of his list.
"As many of you know, yesterday was the first day in the trial of a case Texas filed against the Justice Department under the Voting Rights Act seeking approval of its voter ID law," Holder said. "After close review, the department found that this law would be harmful to minority voters, and we rejected its implementation.
"Listen to this: Under the proposed law, concealed handgun licenses would be acceptable forms of photo ID, but student IDs would not. 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.
"In our efforts to protect voting right and prevent voting fraud, we will be vigilant. But let me be very clear. We will not allow political pretext to disenfranchise American citizens of their most precious rights."
And Holder wasn't finished with laying down his opposition to the Texas law.
"I don't know will happen as this case moves forward, but I can assure you that this Justice Department's efforts to uphold and enforce voting rights will remain aggressive" he said. "The arc of American history has always moved toward expanding the electorate. It is what has made this nation exceptional.
"We will simply not allow this era to be the beginning of the reversal of that historic progress. I will not allow that to happen."
Presumed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and Vice President Joe Biden speak at the convention Wednesday and Thursday, respectively. Click for details on the NAACP's 103rd national conference, which continues through Thursday at the George R. Brown Convention Center.