U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder spoke this morning at Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network 14th annual convention. In his remarks, in which he promised a thorough investigation of the Trayvon Martin case, he also made an unequivocal commitment to voting rights in the nation. His Department of Justice has been kept busy jousting with South Carolina over their strict photo voter law, monitoring primary elections in Wisconsin, and standing up to Texas, which has launched a wholesale assault on the Voting Rights Act, declaring it unconstitutional while rejecting DOJ's request to depose state legislators involved in creating the strict photo voter ID law passed there last year.
Holder's speech this morning emphasized that the Justice Department will remain steadfast in its defense of the Voting Rights Act, which he called "our nation's most important civil rights statute." His full comments on voting rights can be read below:
"In recent months, the Division's Voting Section has taken crucial steps to ensure integrity, independence, and transparency in our aggressive enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. And, as we've signaled through our recent actions - in South Carolina, Florida, and Texas - we will continue to oppose discriminatory practices, while also vigorously defending Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act against challenges to its constitutionality. Let me be very clear: this Administration will do whatever is necessary to ensure the continued viability of the Voting Rights Act - our nation's most important civil rights statute.
As Dr. King so often pointed out, in this great country, the ability of all eligible citizens to participate in - and to have a voice in - the work of government is not a privilege. It is a right. And protecting the right to vote, ensuring meaningful access, and combating discrimination must be viewed, not only as a legal issue - but as a moral imperative.
This means that we must support policies aimed at modernizing our voting systems; at ensuring that all eligible citizens have access to complete, accurate, and understandable information about where, when, and how they can cast a ballot; and at preventing and punishing fraudulent voting practices. It also demands that we engage in a thoughtful and truthful dialogue about where we should target our efforts - and where solutions are necessary.
We might begin by acknowledging the fact that instances of in-person voter fraud are extremely rare, a point that groups from different political affiliations have acknowledged, and numerous studies - by organizations from the Brennan Center to the Republican National Lawyers Association - have affirmed.
Despite its rarity, any instance of voter fraud is unacceptable - and will not be tolerated by the Department of Justice.
There's no dispute on this issue. And there's no reason we should allow it to distract us from our collective responsibility to ensure that our democracy is as strong, fair, and inclusive as possible. Let me be clear once again: whatever reason might be advanced, this Department of Justice will oppose any effort - any effort - to disenfranchise American citizens."
Read Holder's full National Action Network annual convention speech for full context.
View a clip of Holder's speech here.