Civil rights activists meeting with Barack Obama and Eric Holder at the White House on Monday emerged delighted with promises made to them to counter the action of the Supreme Court in June striking down the coverage formula in Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. The ruling decided which states had to obtain clearance from the DOJ or a Washington D.C. federal court before they made any changes to voting procedures.
MSNBC host Al Sharpton stated, “We were assured by the president and the attorney general they will aggressively fight to protect the right of all Americans to vote.” He added that there was a “wound in the Voting Rights Act — but it is far from dead.”
Laura Murphy of the ACLU said the White House had committed “to use all available resources to protect the crown jewel of the civil rights movement.” The activists plan to lead registration and mobilization drives to counter voter ID laws.
Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, said:
Keep a close eye on action at the state-legislative level. These state legislatures, in the last 24-36 months, there have been a long list of bills introduced in states across the nation — particularly in the South but not exclusively in the South — that fall into the category of voter suppression.
National Council of La Raza President Janet Murguía and new Labor Secretary Thomas Perez also attended the meeting, as well as Florida state Rep. Alan William, who blustered:
One thing that’s not lost upon many of us down there, post the Shelby decision but also post the Zimmerman verdict, we know that next year would have been the first year that Trayvon Martin would have had an opportunity to vote. And we know that it’s very sacred, and it’s not lost on us. We want to make sure that everyone has that opportunity.
Holder plans to take advantage of provisions in the Voting Rights Act left intact by SCOTUS to reimpose pre-clearance before the states can act unilaterally.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said:
We should be able to build bipartisan consensus about the need to protect those important rights. The President is certainly interested in working with Democrats and Republicans to protect those rights. And that’s something that Republicans have supported in the past, and I don’t see why they wouldn’t support those kinds of measures in the future.
The White House, Holder, and the activists are ignoring one thing: the American public. A June 25 McClatchy/Marist poll found that 84% of registered voters felt it was a good thing if election laws were changed to require voters to show identification in order to vote. 99% of GOP voters, 87% of independents, and 72% of Democrats agreed with that sentiment. Most significantly, the percentage of non-whites who approved of voter ID was even higher than whites; 83% of non-whites favored it and 82% of whites.