Biden weighs in on voting rights case
February 27th, 2013
09:50 PM ET
10 years ago

Biden weighs in on voting rights case

Washington (CNN) - Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday he couldn't believe he was reliving a civil rights battle, pointing to the Supreme Court's division over a provision in the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

"I never thought we'd have to refight so many fights," Biden said at a reception for Black History Month at the Naval Observatory in Washington.

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The high court heard oral arguments Wednesday over challenges to Section 5, a part of the Voting Rights Act that gives the federal government open-ended oversight of states and localities, mostly in the South, with a history of voter discrimination.

Conservative justices on Wednesday suggested it was a constitutionally unnecessary vestige of the civil rights era, CNN Supreme Court Producer Bill Mears reported.

Any changes in voting laws and procedures in all or parts of 16 covered states must be "pre-cleared" with Washington. That could include something as simple as moving a polling place temporarily across the street.

Related: Justices offer split views on Voting Rights Act enforcement

The provision was reauthorized by Congress in 2006 for another 25 years and officials in Shelby County, Alabama, subsequently filed suit, saying the monitoring was overly burdensome and unwarranted.

But advocates for the provision say it's necessary to protect voting rights.

Speaking Wednesday, Biden was introduced by Rep. John Lewis, who described the vice president as "my friend, my brother, our leader" and a "tireless leader, fighter" who "not only talked the talk but walked the walk."

Biden recalled growing up in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and knowing only one African-American. He then moved to Delaware, where he said it was a fundamentally different environment.

Biden said he became interested in the civil rights movement as a young boy and inspired by some of its leaders, including some standing in the room at the reception.

"As long as we occupy this house, it's your house," he told the audience.

The vice president added that "it always amazes me how my white, liberal friends think they understand the black community." Speaking to the crowd, he said "the work you did also liberated white folks."

Biden, who's traveling to Selma, Alabama, this Sunday to take part in the Bridge Crossing Jubilee, said the most important effort in coming years, he added, will be "making sure the franchise is expanded and not restricted."

The American people have "changed" he said, but added that "we've got a hell of a - heck of a lot to do."

- CNN's Ashley Killough and Bill Mears contributed to this report.

Filed under: Joe Biden • Supreme Court • Voter Problems
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. California

    Biden the buffoon.

    February 27, 2013 11:09 pm at 11:09 pm |
  2. Donna

    The Voting Rights Act has been perverted by the left. It is now used as a bludgeon on states that do not support their point of view. Obviously, if you do not agree with the left then you must be a racist and subject to the boot heel of the federal government.

    February 27, 2013 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  3. Tlw

    If you are an American, you get to vote , how simple is that.

    February 28, 2013 01:02 am at 1:02 am |
  4. Marie MD

    The only right we all have regardless of race, money, religion is our voting rights.
    The rethugs tried to win the election by buying it and failed. This is not a myth. There is video of some reps in PA and OH saying it and their followers applauding that the twit had the election in he bag. Why do you think fat boy rove was so surprised that they didn't win Ohio???? Wake up people.
    The rethugs are gerrymandering districts so that they win at the state level which will also affect general elections.
    It took a long time and many deaths for women and Blacks to be able to vote. We are not going back!

    February 28, 2013 06:41 am at 6:41 am |
  5. Name lynn

    Joe Biden speaks on civil rights movement, well people dont start a war about the civils rights its not back in slaverly days, its a new time an age keep the peace, joe is white bt not stupid.

    February 28, 2013 07:15 am at 7:15 am |