President Obama told “The Black Eagle” radio show on Thursday that even if the Voting Rights Act loses in the Supreme Court, people won’t lose their right to vote.
“I know in the past some folks have worried that if the Supreme Court strikes down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, they’re going to lose their right to vote,” he said, according to The Hill. “That’s not the case. … People will still have the same rights not to be discriminated against when it comes to voting, you just won’t have this mechanism, this tool, that allows you to kind of stay ahead of certain practices.”
Section 5 of the law, which will be the subject of oral arguments before the high court next Wednesday, requires state and local governments with a history of discriminatory voting laws to receive preclearance from the Justice Department before changing laws that affect voting. The rest of the historic civil rights law, which put an end to voter discrimination practices like literacy tests and poll taxes, is not on the hook.
Obama called it a “critical tool” but “not the only tool,” saying that if the federal government works with local governments on guidelines and rules, “I think it’s still possible obviously for us to make sure that everybody’s able to exercise their rights.”
The president’s remarks appear aimed at soothing concerns about what it would mean if the Supreme Court decides that Section 5 is unconstitutional. The administration, which is defending the law, faces a tough battle in winning over five justices to uphold the law.
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.