President Barack Obama argued Friday for keeping a key provision of federal voting rights law in place, saying it will become harder but not impossible to help people who believe their rights at the polls have been violated if the Supreme Court decides to strike down that part of the law. The court has scheduled oral arguments for Wednesday on a challenge from Shelby County, Ala., near Birmingham, to a section of the Voting Rights Act. The provision requires all or parts of 16 states with a history of racial discrimination, mostly in the South, to get approval from the Justice Department or federal court in Washington before making any changes in the way they hold elections, such as moving a polling place. The appeal argues that places covered by the law have made such progress that Washington oversight is unnecessary. Opponents of the provision also cite racial progress in the decades since the landmark law was enacted in 1965 that led to the election and recent re-election of Obama, the country’s first black president.
Defenders of the provision say it’s still needed, particularly in light of efforts in many states during the past election cycle to impose new requirements on voters, such as shortening the window for early voting or requiring voters to show photo identification before they cast a ballot, which some argue disproportionately affect blacks and other racial minorities.
In a radio interview taped Thursday at the White House and broadcast Friday morning, Obama said removing the oversight requirement would make it a lot harder to give relief to voters who feel aggrieved. If that were to happen, he said, such voters would have to wait until potential obstacles have been put in place before they could then sue in an attempt to have them overturned.
“So generally speaking, you’d see less protection before an election with respect to voting rights,” Obama said in the interview with SiriusXM host Joe Madison. “People could keep on coming up with new schemes each election. Even if they were ultimately ruled to violate the Voting Rights Act, it would be hard for us to catch those things up front to make sure that elections are done in an equitable way.”
Full Article: Obama: Voting Rights Act Provision Should Be Kept.