June 25th, 2013
07:10 PM ET
7 years ago

Rep. John Lewis: Supreme Court put a 'dagger' in Voting Rights Act

(CNN) - Longtime congressman and veteran civil rights icon John Lewis said the Supreme Court's ruling on the Voting Rights Act dealt a major blow to minorities in the United States.

"It is awful, it's a sad day, I never thought that I would see the day when the U.S. Supreme Court would put a dagger in the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965," he said Tuesday on CNN's The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.

The high court ruled in a 5-4 decision that key parts of the law that required states with a history of voter discrimination to get approval from the federal government before making changes in their voter laws were no longer valid.

The prevailing opinion leaves it up to Congress to revise the law so that it's constitutional.
Proponents of the decision said the now-invalid parts were outdated and an undue burden on states wanting to make even the slightest changes to their voting procedures.

Critics, however, say the decision could lead to voter oppression by allowing states to enact laws that would indirectly discriminate against certain voters.

While backers of the Supreme Court's ruling - mostly Republicans - say times are different and states no longer need federal accountability to prevent discrimination, Lewis argued that the country isn’t ready yet.

"The question of race is deeply embedded in the American society, and we cannot sweep it under a rug or in some dark corner," he said.

The Democratic congressman from Georgia, now in his 14th term, said Republicans and Democrats in Congress should come together and reauthorize the Voting Rights Act like they did in 2006.

Reauthorization would give Congress a chance to revisit the law and make changes in a bipartisan manner.

Pressed on whether it was possible for the GOP-controlled House and the Democrat-controlled Senate to pass such legislation, Lewis said, "We can and we must."

"The vote is powerful," he continued. "It's the most powerful, non-violent tool that we have in a democratic society. And we have to do it. We have an obligation to do it."

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said Tuesday he's "hopeful" Congress can work together to resolve the issue.

In March, Cantor joined Lewis and a bipartisan delegation for a Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage through Alabama.

"My experience with John Lewis in Selma earlier this year was a profound experience that demonstrated the fortitude it took to advance civil rights and ensure equal protection for all," Cantor said. "I'm hopeful Congress will put politics aside, as we did on that trip, and find a responsible path forward that ensures that the sacred obligation of voting in this country remains protected."

- CNN's Dana Bash contributed to this report.

Watch The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer weekdays at 4pm to 6pm ET and Saturdays at 6pm ET. For the latest from The Situation Room click here.

soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. Data Driven

    Supreme Court: Racism is over! Yay!

    Federal laws against race discrimination when it comes to jobs, financial transactions, you name it ... except voting. A dark day for America, but with this one small shining light at the end of the tunnel: the percentage of minorities who vote for Republicans - presuming they'll get the opportunity, natch - will be microscopic. In the long run, this could very well kill the GOP ... unless they're vewwy, vewwy quiet about their support for killing the VRA. Republicans will have to mouth pieties similar to the ones expressed by Cantor in this piece.

    But don't believe them for a second. Republicans are delighted by the Court's decision today, and will ACT accordingly, despite what they may SAY.

    June 25, 2013 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  2. Ja

    America is currently fighting in foreign lands for something called democracy, what an irony, of course the court is made up of mere men, that can make flawed descisions, are we surprised

    June 25, 2013 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  3. just sayin

    "The question of race is deeply embedded in the American society, and we cannot sweep it under a rug or in some dark corner," he said.

    it's getting more and more embedded by him and the democrats that scream racism at everything that happens which they don't like. to these charletons, everybody is a guilty racist until being proven innocent by joining the democrat party and their race baiting crowd. it is about time the ussc ruled this stuff out of date and illegitimate. the democrats would never do it, even if given another 200 years.

    June 25, 2013 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  4. don in albuquerque

    SCOTUS–Absolutely fascist.

    June 25, 2013 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  5. K. Johnson

    These statements are as absolutely ridiculous as the absurd national mindset that scores of Southern people are just waiting in limbo to screw over and violate other people. Good heavens, when non-citizens and the deceased are allowed to vote, and other select people are allowed to vote multiple times, it only stands to reason that voting can hardly be any more "fair" or non-regulated. And as well, this agenda that continues to insist that the South is still rife with racism and discrimination and that scores of people are still marching in hoods, bombing daycares, and blasting with fire hoses is every bit as discriminating, prejudiced, and bigoted. Quit cultivating an environment of hate, blame, and accusations!

    June 25, 2013 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  6. Debbie

    Just more evidence that conservatives are regressive. Dred Scott, Jim Crow, Poll Taxes, Literacy tests, and next up ... should women be able to vote. I was a Republican for 35 years and now I wonder why.

    June 25, 2013 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  7. Victor

    What the article fails to mention is: Obama and his cronies gathered information to prove that voting discrimination was still present in the areas stated in Section 4.

    They proved the exact opposite. A great day for America. Stop pretending this is the 50s and 60s....

    June 25, 2013 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  8. Mike Hammer

    This happened because the justices setting on the bench, are out of touch. No other reason could exist.

    June 25, 2013 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  9. ThinkAgain

    Fine, revise the law. And here are the states that have demonstrated they can't guarantee equal access, because they passed laws in 2013 to restrict voting::

    Arkansas (Photo ID required to vote (legislature overrode gubernatorial veto)
    Indiana (Authorizes challengers to demand proof of identification)
    Montana (Referendum to repeal Election Day Registration, placed on the ballot for 2014)
    Nebraska (Reduces the early voting period)
    North Dakota (Photo ID required to vote)
    Tennessee (More restrictive Photo ID requirement)
    Virginia (Photo ID required to vote, Restrictions on third party registration)

    These 13 states passed laws in 2012 and should be added to the watch list:

    Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin

    Why is this happening? Because this is the ONLY way the GOP can win. All of their economic, military and foreign policies are PROVEN FAILURES, and it and its candidates CANNOT win based on their track record.

    To learn more about all the anti-voting activities of the GOP, check out the Brennan Center for Justice has a lot of info (look for Election 2012: Voting Laws Roundup for last years' report; they also have stuff from this year).

    For a bunch of folks who love to thump their chests and go on about how patriotic they are, the GOP sure spends a lot of time and money trying to suppress our freedom to vote.

    June 25, 2013 10:57 pm at 10:57 pm |
  10. rs

    The sad thing is that the Republican leadership in NC, Georgia, Alabama, and Texas all moved TODAY in the wake of the Supreme Court decision to pass restrictive voting laws. NC actually calling for a whole slate of anti-voting laws including ending early voting on Sundays, restricting early voting days, limiting polling places and more.

    The Supreme Court today has attempted to change elections in America by restricting voting rights of Americans. Shocking and disgusting.

    June 25, 2013 11:14 pm at 11:14 pm |
  11. belinda

    As a Hispanic, I would just like to say that all minorities, were stabbed in the back today, by the Supreme Court. After all of the attempts to steal the voting rights of U.S. citizens,this past election, that turned into a full fledged, Republican debacle. That won the election for Democrats, that Scalia, a Supreme Court justice just might notice. I thought not .

    June 25, 2013 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  12. Thomas

    How Chief Justice John Roberts orchestrated the Citizens United decision.

    John Roberts' Supreme Court is trying to kill Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act without admitting that that's what they're doing.

    When he was in his late 20s, John Roberts was a foot soldier in President Ronald Reagan administration's crusade against the Voting Rights ...

    June 26, 2013 01:51 am at 1:51 am |
  13. norma jean

    NO Responses or just that you Repubs haven't liked what youve gotten....... At least I know of one respnnse.....MINE......which was ignored!!!

    June 26, 2013 01:56 am at 1:56 am |
  14. Zerubbabel

    MLK and those who made the ultimate sacrifice must be crying in their graves. All those who sacrificed so much must not give up help. I can remember growing up in West Chester, PA and listening to Mr. Earl Rustin, in his barbershop, tell stories of his brother Bayard Rustin and the sacrifices and hardships the civil rights warriors endured to attain the right to vote. To those on the right that say 50 years have passed and things have changed, I say that change does not come that fast. It took 100 years after the South was defeated in the Civil War, for the black population to truly achieve the right to vote and not be second class citizens. Still after 150 years many still proudly display the rebel flag. A symbol of treason, intolerance and hate. The South still fights the Civil War today, just not on the battlefield, but in Congress and State Houses. So really, how long does it take to heal? A 150 years longer than it took Sherman to burn Atlanta or Grant to go through Richmond. Racism is very much alive and as long as conservatives fear the browning of America, I am afraid that they will become more emboldened to disenfranchise segments of the population to maintain their version of America. Living in fear must be torture, the love of the Almighty casts out all fear.

    June 26, 2013 02:07 am at 2:07 am |
  15. Zerubbabel

    As the 2nd amendment rights supporters say, if the gubmint creates a voter register, they will take away my constitutional right to vote. Keep your hands off of my 13th, 14th and 15th amendment. FREE CITIZENS VOTE.

    June 26, 2013 02:39 am at 2:39 am |