Speaking Thursday to “The Black Eagle” radio show on SiriusXM, Obama said listeners shouldn’t worry too much that discrimination against minority voters will increase. The Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments about Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act next week. “I know in the past some folks have worried that if the Supreme Court strikes down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, they’re going to lose their right to vote. That’s not the case,” Obama said on the radio show. “People will still have the same rights not to be discriminated against when it comes to voting, you just won’t have this mechanism, this tool, that allows you to kind of stay ahead of certain practices,” Obama said. Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act requires municipalities with a history of disenfranchisement efforts to pre-clear changes to voting practices with the Justice Department or a federal court. The provision was designed to prevent states from instituting poll taxes, literary tests, or other efforts to keep minority voters from the polls that might later be ruled unconstitutional from doing so before an election.
Shelby County v. Holder is the case before the Supreme Court next week. It’s the latest challenge to Section 5 — and one that Supreme Court watchers believe could lead to the provision being struck down.
In 2009, swing justices John Roberts and Anthony Kennedy ruled in favor of allowing a Texas jurisdiction to apply for an exemption to Section 5, and the majority decision hinted that a wholesale challenge could be successful.
On Friday, Obama said that that while Section 5 had been historically important in enfranchising African-American voters, “it’s not the only tool we have.”
“It’s a critical tool, it’s not the only tool,” Obama said.