WASHINGTON — President Obama on Tuesday said he was “deeply disappointed” with the Supreme Court’s 5-to-4 decision ruling a central piece of the 1965 Voting Rights Act unconstitutional, and he called on Congress to pass legislation protecting access to voting.Good.
The president registered his critique in a written statement issued by the White House that noted the law’s bipartisan legacy and the Supreme Court’s acknowledgment, in the ruling, that discrimination persists.
“For nearly 50 years, the Voting Rights Act — enacted and repeatedly renewed by wide bipartisan majorities in Congress — has helped secure the right to vote for millions of Americans,” the statement read. “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.”
Mr. Obama’s attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., who is named as the defendant in the case, Shelby County v. Holder, used similar language to criticize the court’s decision.
“The Department of Justice will continue to carefully monitor jurisdictions around the country for voting changes that may hamper voting rights,” Mr. Holder said. “Let me be very clear: We will not hesitate to take swift enforcement action using every legal tool that remains available to us against any jurisdiction that seeks to take advantage of the Supreme Court’s ruling by hindering eligible citizens full and free exercise of the franchise.”
Mr. Holder also emphasized the law’s long history of bipartisan support in Congress and under successive presidential administrations.
In his decision, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said that Congress remained free to try to impose federal oversight on states where voting rights were at risk, but it was clear that the likelihood that a divided Congress could agree on a remedy was small.
Members of the N.A.A.C.P. and civil rights lawyers said they would ask Congress to draw up a new coverage formula, laid out in Section 4 of the act.
“We are confident that members of both houses of Congress that helped lead the effort in 2006, many of whom are still there, will help to restore the power of Section 4,” Wade Henderson, the president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said outside the Supreme Court on Tuesday....
Across the South, reaction to the decision appeared to be split, largely along racial and partisan lines. Luther Strange, the Republican attorney general of Alabama, called it “a victory for Alabama” and added that he did not believe that the state should be included in any formula Congress may adopt.
Tate Reeves, the Republican lieutenant governor of Mississippi, said he was pleased by the decision but said that preclearance “unfairly applied to certain states should be eliminated in recognition of the progress Mississippi has made over the past 48 years.”
On one point, most people agreed: that Congress was not likely to come up with a remedy to Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act any time soon, leaving the South without the oversight provided by Section 5.
And see J. Christian Adams' comments to that effect as well, "Supreme Court's Ruling in Shelby v. Holder: 'It is one of the most important decisions in decades...'."