U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said that if the Justice Department were faced with budget cuts due to sequestration, he believes that he would be able to maintain public safety by shifting resources and that the federal prison system could operate â€śfor monthsâ€ť if necessary.
â€śI have the flexibility to move funds within the Department,â€ť Holder said.
However, nearly all civil cases would have to be put on hold, he added during an extended interview with National Public Radio reporter Nina Totenberg, after giving an address at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston.
In the speech, Holder discussed voting rights and defended his departmentâ€™s challenges of voting regulations in Texas, South Carolina, and Florida. He said those cases show that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act that requires federal approval of changes in voting procedures in 16 states, mostly in the South, must be maintained.
Critics have said the provision is no longer needed because minority voting rights have become accepted. But Holder said the states â€świth documented histories of discriminationâ€ť still should be required to gain â€śpre-clearanceâ€ť from the Justice Department or a panel of federal judges.
â€śDespite the remarkable, once unimaginable progress that weâ€™ve seen over the last half century â€” indeed over the last four years â€” Section 5 remains an indispensable tool for eradicating racial discrimination,â€ť Holder said.
Holder continued to press for increased voter registration. He rejected the common Republican claim that concerns about potential voter fraud require tight controls on voting systems.
â€śIn-person voter fraud remains rare,â€ť he said. â€śThe alleged tension between having accessible election systems and having election systems that are free from fraud is simply not real.â€ť