Days after his administration filed suit against Texas to protect minority voters, President Obama told civil rights leaders and local officials on Monday that the federal government would vigorously enforce voting rights in the country despite a Supreme Court ruling against a core section of a landmark 1965 law, several participants said after a White House meeting. “The president said that the Voting Rights Act is not dead, it’s not even critical, it’s just wounded,” said the Rev. Al Sharpton, the civil rights activist and MSNBC talk show host. “He was very reassuring,” Mr. Sharpton added. Mr. Obama met with the group for about 40 minutes, and administration officials led by the attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., met with the group for a bit longer. The administration was addressing what Mr. Sharpton described as the civil rights community’s “alarm” over the court’s 5-to-4 vote last month. In that case, Shelby County v. Holder, the majority struck down as outdated and unnecessary the law’s language requiring that the federal government review and clear any changes in election laws in nine states, most of them in the South.
Even before the meeting, the Obama administration reassured civil rights leaders last week with Mr. Holder’s announcement that the Justice Department was asking a Texas federal court to require that state and local officials there get approval from the federal government for any changes in election law. The department’s case is based on surviving provisions of the voting law.
Texas’ Republican leaders had said after the Supreme Court ruling that they would immediately put into effect new maps for electoral districts, which Latinos had challenged, as well as a new law requiring voters to show acceptable proof of identity.
Mr. Obama also said that he would seek bipartisan support for legislation reversing the impact of the court’s decision, but participants were skeptical that he could prevail.