Obama denounces Supreme Court voting-rights decision

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
Font Size:

President Barack Obama complained about the Supreme Court’s decision to void a key provision of the federal voting law that governs voting rules in Southern states.

“I am deeply disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision today,” Obama said.

“For nearly 50 years, the Voting Rights Act … has helped secure the right to vote for millions of Americans,” he said in a statement about the decision, Shelby County, Alabama, Vs. Holder. “Today’s decision invalidating one of its core provisions upsets decades of well-established practices that help make sure voting is fair, especially in places where voting discrimination has been historically prevalent.”

The Constitution says state and local government set their own voting laws. The court had earlier approved the federal oversight because of the anti-black history of numerous Southern states and jurisdictions.

But the court decided Tuesday to void a central section of the oversight law because it relies on outdated data about public opinion and politics in Southern states.

“In 2006, the Act was reauthorized for an additional 25 years, but the coverage formula was not changed. Coverage still turned on whether a jurisdiction had a voting test in the 1960s or 1970s, and had low voter registration or turnout at that time,” said the decision, by Chief Justice John Roberts.

The court’s decision will likely prompt Obama and his allies to step up their claim that Southern states and GOP politicians are trying to suppress voting by African-Americans and Latinos.

The threat of GOP-caused voter suppression was a major theme in his 2012 campaign in African-American communities, and it helped push African-American turnout to a record level. Nationally, African-American turnout, including in the southern states, may have been higher than white turnout, belying Democrats’ claims of GOP-orchestrated voter suppression.

The evening of his election victory, Obama promised to create a panel of experts to help increase voter turnout.

In his Tuesday, statement, Obama evoked the memory of pre-1970s racism in the South.

“Voting discrimination still exists,” Obama said in his Tuesday statement. “I am calling on Congress to pass legislation to ensure every American has equal access to the polls. My Administration will continue to do everything in its power to ensure a fair and equal voting process.”

Follow Neil on Twitter