The federal government may no longer use what's been its most potent tool to stop voting discrimination over the past half century. A divided Supreme Court today declared unconstitutional a provision of the landmark Voting Rights Act -- a provision that determines which states and localities have to get Washington's approval to make changes in election laws. The justices said the law relies on data from 40 years ago that doesn't reflect racial progress and changes in U.S. society.
Oregon's Senator Jeff Merkley issued the following statement after the Supreme Court's decision to overturn a key section of the Voting Rights Act.
"In a democracy, there is no right more fundamental than the right to vote, and yet in some places, Americans still face the threat of large road blocks to accessing the ballot box. For nearly half a century, the Voting Rights Act has played a critical role in clearing those road blocks, which is why Congress overwhelmingly reauthorized the Act the last time it was considered. Indeed, the Court recognizes the enormous importance of voting rights and Congress's power in securing those rights. Today's decision to cut off the Act's implementation at the knees is so fundamentally off base. Sadly, in making this constitutional overreach, the Court reflects a naïve approach to the political process and the practical obstacles that keep too many Americans from the ballot box. Unless Congress acts soon, far too many Americans will face serious obstacles to exercising their right to vote.
"Today's decision is the latest example of a series of Supreme Court decisions that are out of touch with the practical, day-to-day challenges facing Americans. That trend is exemplified by the Citizens United decision, but includes cases this session that make it harder to seek redress for sexual harassment in the workplace and harder to vindicate consumer protection complaints in court. The Supreme Court's continued assault on government 'of, by, and for the people' is deeply misguided."
Vice President Joe Biden says the Obama administration will do everything in its power to ensure fair voting in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling stopping part of the Voting Rights Act enforcement.
Biden said from the White House Tuesday that the Supreme Court "upset a well-established practice" by halting enforcement of the most powerful tool to stop voting discrimination.
Biden called the Voting Rights Act the "cornerstone of the American civil rights movement" and said it spurred him to run for the Senate 40 years ago. The vice president helped oversee reauthorization of the law as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
He said he and others in the administration will work with Congress to pass new legislation in response to the ruling.