In his victory speech in the early hours of Nov. 7, President Obama thanked “every American who participated in this election. Whether you voted for the very first time, or waited in line for a very long time—by the way we have to fix that.”
It now appears that the President intends to make do on that promise.
In a speech Tuesday night at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, Attorney General Eric Holder remarked it was time to have a conversation on how America holds elections. “It is important for national leaders, academic experts, and members of the public to engage in a frank, thorough, and inclusive discussion about how our election systems can be made stronger and more accessible,” Holder said.
Although the Attorney General did not endorse any specific legislation, he did mention a number of ideas: automatic registration that moves with the voter, longer operating hours for polling locations, and more days to vote. Many of Holder’s suggestions are in line with the recommendations of leading voting rights organizations such as the Brennan Center for Justice.
The Justice Department has been instrumental in stemming the tide of Republican efforts to limit the franchise , most notably in Florida and Texas. But the Obama administration has not made any major moves on electoral reform in its first term. With Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act—a key provision that forces states with a history of racial discrimination to seek federal approval when making changes to voting laws—on trial in the Supreme Court, the next few years could prove to be critical in the fight against voter disenfranchisement.
In his speech at the Kennedy Library, a place dedicated to a president who set in motion much of the legislation that is at stake in the current voting rights battle, Holder argued that: “This nation has come too far, and its people—from all races, religions, creeds, backgrounds, and walks of life—have sacrificed too much not to finish the task of ensuring equal voting rights for all Americans.”