In 2013, when the Supreme Court changed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by making Section 4 (and thereby, Section 5) unconstitutional, its decision unleashed a torrent of controversy among those who support the rights of states to make their own voting laws and those who believe that the door to discrimination among minorities was reopened.
Naturally, with such a landmark decision having taken place, President Obama would have something to say on the matter.
Immediately following the Shelby County v. Holder decision, President Obama made the following statement
“I am deeply disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision today. 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. 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.”
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“As a nation, we’ve made a great deal of progress towards guaranteeing every American the right to vote. But, as the Supreme Court recognized, voting discrimination still exists. And while today’s decision is a setback, it doesn’t represent the end of our efforts to end voting discrimination. 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.”
Two years after the decision, and to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the historic events of Selma, Alabama, President Barack Obama was quoted as saying
“Fifty years from Bloody Sunday, our march is not yet finished. But we are getting closer. Two hundred and thirty-nine years after this nation’s founding, our union is not yet perfect. But we are getting closer. Meanwhile, the Voting Rights Act, the culmination of so much blood and sweat and tears, the product of so much sacrifice in the face of wanton violence, stands weakened, its future subject to partisan rancor.”
Obama was clearly referencing the Shelby County v. Holder decision in his remarks. Ever since the 2013 decision, debates have raged over new state voting implementations, the most controversial being the Voter ID laws enacted by Texas and other states.
Before his presidency expired, Obama urged Congress to renew the Voting Rights Act after the Supreme Court weakened its protections in its Shelby County v. Holder decision. In a letter to The New York Times
, Obama stated a historical case for the Voting Rights Act.
"From the moment the ink was dry on the Voting Rights Act, there has been a concentrated effort to undermine this historic law and turn back the clock on its progress. ... These efforts are not a sign that we have moved past the shameful history that led to the Voting Rights Act. Too often, they are rooted in that history. They remind us that progress does not come easy, but that it must be vigorously defended and built upon for ourselves and future generations."
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