Democrats reacted angrily to the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling today to strike down the section of the Voting Rights Act that the Justice Department was leaning on to go after states with voter ID laws.
“The present Congress will see nothing but obstruction, delay and the introduction of voter suppression laws. This decision is far from reality, lacking in empathy and has taken the civil rights of populations that depended on federal law and shredded it!” Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) blasted in a statement, accusing the court of turning back the clock 150 years.
President Obama said he was “deeply disappointed” in the ruling.
“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,” Obama said.
“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,” he continued. “My Administration will continue to do everything in its power to ensure a fair and equal voting process.”
Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the court “has taken the legs out from underneath the Voting Rights Act.”
“The good news — if there is good news — is that the framework of the Voting Rights Act remains intact. The problem before us now can be solved with bipartisan legislative action, but it will take this Congress coming together to do it,” Coons said. “…We cannot simply wish away racial discrimination, and although we have come a long way from the era of Jim Crow, the very real threat of discriminatory voting practices unfortunately remains a fact of life in too many parts of this country.”
Democrats heaped on early pressure for a legislative answer to the ruling.
“We must be clear — The Voting Rights Act is not ancient history. Just last year alone, Section 5 helped prevent discrimination across the country – on issues ranging from state ID’s to redistricting and reducing early voting. Voting is a sacred right and ensuring that every vote counts is a cornerstone of our democracy that must be embraced by both sides of the aisle,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).
“The last time Congress reauthorized the Voting Rights Act in 2006, it was passed for the fourth time with sweeping bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress. We must come together once again to ensure that every American has the fundamental right to vote regardless of which community they live in,” she said.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said the Voting Rights Act “is as necessary today as it was in the era of Jim Crow laws.”
“We must act immediately to rewrite this vital law,” he added.