Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday compared the new Texas voter ID law to the post-slavery efforts to keep blacks from voting known as a “poll taxes.”
The law was passed last year by the GOP-led state legislature, then signed by Gov. Rick Perry, in an effort to curb voter fraud.
In a speech at the annual NAACP conference, in Houston, Holder said many voters would have to travel “great distances” to get a government-issued photo ID and that some would “struggle” to pay for the requisite paperwork.
“We call these poll taxes,” Holder said.
He also said the Texas law hurts minorities and that politics is the driving force behind the issue.
Holder called Texas the “center of our national debate” on voting rights issues and vowed the Justice Department would “aggressively” fight to enforce those rights.
He delivered the remarks on the second day of a federal trial in Washington, D.C., regarding the law, which requires voters to show photo IDs at polling places.
The Justice Department is attempting to block the law, which prompted Texas to request the legal review. The trial is scheduled to end Friday, but a ruling is not expected until next month.
"I don't know what will happen as this case moves forward,” Holder said. “But I can assure you that the Justice Department's efforts to uphold and enforce voting rights will remain aggressive.”
He also said the agency found the law "would be harmful to minority voters."
“We will not allow political pretext to disenfranchise American citizens of their most precious rights.”
The so-called poll taxes were imposed in Southern states after slavery to restrict voting among blacks and other minorities who were now eligible to vote.
The 24th Amendment, ratified in 1964, ended the tax in federal elections. And a Supreme Court ruling two years later ended such a tax in all elections.
Holder spoke at the 103rd convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which is launching a battle against new state voter ID laws.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.