Obama Rallies Democrats To Stop GOP With Voting Rights Law

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This week, on the occasion of the anniversary of the enactment in 1965 of the Voting Rights Act, former President Barack Obama spoke out and urged Congress to swiftly enact new federal protections for voting rights. A key component of that 1965 legislation was a requirement for federal authorities to pre-approve certain changes to the conducting of elections prior to their implementation, with the hope of stopping at least some instances of voter suppression before they began. Attorney General Merrick Garland explained in a new op-ed for The Washington Post that federal authorities were able to stop “thousands of discriminatory voting changes” with that requirement in place — but in 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court essentially set that pre-approval rule aside.

Now, federal authorities have significantly less power in their efforts to stop officials at other levels of government from imposing changes to the conducting of elections that amount to voter suppression. One piece of currently on deck legislation, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, would re-impose a form of that pre-approval requirement. The other bill that Democrats have focused on lately, the For the People Act, would put an array of guidelines in place to make voting in federal elections more accessible.

On Twitter, Obama commented as follows:

‘The Voting Rights Act, signed into law 56 years ago today, was a monumental piece of legislation. But with the Supreme Court and state legislatures making it harder to cast a ballot, we can’t take voting rights for granted. Congress needs to summon the same courage we saw a half century ago when the Voting Rights Act was passed and guarantee every American a voice and a vote.’

Republican leaders have promoted stricter voting guidelines in the months following last year’s presidential election, despite the fact that no systematic election integrity problems were uncovered in connection to that election cycle. Thus, these Republicans are simply making voting more difficult rather than responding to any actually documented, systematic election integrity problem, and the restrictions that they’ve been pushing could disproportionately impact marginalized voters, who might not have easy access to what Republicans are hoping to require.