Holder: Congress must stop ‘voting rights discrimination’

Updated
File Photo: U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder
File Photo: U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder
Gerardo Mora/Getty Images, File

Attorney General Eric Holder believes that “Congress needs to act” to protect the right to vote in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling last week gutting the Voting Rights Act.

“The Justice Department is eager to work with Congressional leaders of both parties, and with concerned citizens like you, to craft new legislation to fill the void left by the Court’s ruling and address voting rights discrimination,” Holder told Delta Sigma Theta, a sorority founded at Howard University, on Monday. “This is not a partisan issue. It is an issue about the most fundamental of all rights–the right to vote. It is about how we define our democracy.”

On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will begin hearings intended to inform the process of drawing up a legislative response to the court’s ruling.

Here is the section of Holder’s speech that addressed voting rights:

Just weeks after this organization was born, the 22 founders of Delta Sigma Theta carried out their first public act–and became the only African-American women’s organization to participate in a historic march for women’s suffrage right here in our nation’s capital. From the beginning, they aligned themselves with a righteous cause that has sparked a century-long commitment to social action.

This is a cause that the Justice Department has not only embraced, but championed–particularly over the last four and a half years. Unfortunately, last month’s flawed Supreme Court decision–invalidating a key part of the Voting Rights Act–dealt a significant blow to our efforts to combat discrimination at the ballot box.  By holding that an important provision of this landmark law is unconstitutional, the Court struck down a measure that has stood for nearly five decades as a cornerstone of American civil rights law and that had earned overwhelming bipartisan support.

As we move past this deeply disappointing decision, Congress needs to act to make sure every American has equal access to the polls. The Justice Department is eager to work with Congressional leaders of both parties, and with concerned citizens like you, to craft new legislation to fill the void left by the Court’s ruling and address voting rights discrimination. This is not a partisan issue. It is an issue about the most fundamental of all rights–the right to vote. It is about how we define our democracy.

In the meantime, my colleagues and I will continue to stand vigilant against voter discrimination wherever it is found–using all of the enforcement tools that remain available to us. Even more importantly, we’ll keep relying on people throughout the nation to defend their rights by exercising them; by going to the ballot box on Election Day; and by voting for their preferred candidates of either party.

This is our solemn duty–as advocates for fairness, civil rights, and equality. It is our sacred responsibility as American citizens. And it must always be our common cause–as heirs to the legacies of Dorothy Height, Vivian Malone, and millions of other Deltas who, over the last century, have spoken out for voting rights and civil liberties; demanded better wages and working conditions; and fought for equal treatment and equal justice.

Holder: Congress must stop 'voting rights discrimination'

Updated