Transcript for Attorney General Eric Holder Slams SCOTUS Ruling on Voting Rights
This is a special report from ABC news. -- -- Hernandez in New York this is an ABC news digital special report the Supreme Court this morning struck down a key portion of the voting rights act saying outdated and needs to be rewritten by congress point 35 to four decision -- majority -- laws are a number of mostly southern states to submit their election plans for the federal decisions are unconstitutional. In their current form has. As the attorney general Eric Holder is addressing a press -- -- Americans. Across the country. In the nearly half century since its initial passage in 1965. Feet voting rights act has consistently enjoyed. Brought pipe part bipartisan support in congress as well as the executive branch. After extensive hearings sections four and five of this important law. -- reauthorize most recently in 2006. Just seven years ago. With the unanimous support of the United States senate in the year near unanimous support of the House of Representatives. This is a uniquely legislative function and responsibility. That the constitution expressly gave to congress. The last reauthorization was signed into law by president George W. Bush. Just -- -- -- authorizations had been signed by presidents Ford. Reagan and Nixon. In accordance with core nonpartisan American values. After all as congress correctly recognize in the hearings held in 2006. Racial and language minorities face significant voting discrimination. In some parts of our country. Given the successful decisions in the department's voting rights act case is over the last eighteen months over the last eighteen months. The need for a vital -- -- intact -- rights act remains clear. Last year a federal court cited the value of the voting rights act in blocking. Detective Texas congressional redistricting map -- the grounds that it discriminated against Latino. Voters. In that case the court noted that the parties you know -- This is from a court. The court noted that the parties provided more evidence of discriminatory intent then we have speaks -- need to address here. Provided more evidence of discriminatory intent -- we have space -- need to address here -- quote. The federal court that reviewed south Carolinas -- photo ID law also united noted and I quote the vital function. That the voting rights act played in prompting the state to change. How it will implement the statute in future elections so that it would no longer. Disproportionately impact black voters. Without deception -- coverage formula neither of these discriminatory voting changes would have been subject to review. And both could have been implemented immediately. Fees are just two many examples demonstrating that these problems have not been consigned to history they continue to exist. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- Not yesterday. And they corrode the foundations. Of our democracy. Our country has changed for the better since 1965. But the destination that we seek has not yet been reached. Indeed. -- reading of today's opinions demonstrates that every member of every member of the Supreme Court agrees with this fact. As the Chief Justice wrote in a quarter again. Voting discrimination still exists. No one doubts that -- quote. This is why protecting the fundamental right to vote for all Americans will remain one of the Justice Department's highest priorities. The Department of Justice will continue to carefully monitored jurisdictions around the country for voting changes that may hamper voting rights. Let me be very clear. We will not hesitate to take swift enforcement action. Using every legal tool that remains to us think -- any jurisdiction that seeks to take advantage of the supreme court's ruling. By hindering eligible citizens full and free exercise. Of the franchise. As the president has made clear congress needs to act to make sure that every American has equal access to the polls. The department also will work with congress and other elected and community leaders to formulate potential legislative proposals to address. -- rights discrimination. Because all their own existing statutes cannot totally fill the void left by today's Supreme Court ruling. And I am hopeful that new protections can and will pass in this session of congress. Be voting rights act has always had strong bipartisan support on Capitol Hill and today's ruling should not change that. This is not a partisan issue this is and American issue. Because our democracy is founded or ensuring that every eligible citizen has access to the ballot box. Finally. We need to be clear about what happened today. Part of early voting rights act but not all of it was struck down. He constitutionally protected voting rights of all Americans remain fully intact. And the right to vote free from discrimination based on race -- language requires our vigilant protection. We know for many decades of long hard struggle. That the best way to defend -- right is to go out and exercise. So no one should conclude that today's unfortunate decision has rendered her or his voting rights invalid. -- -- -- attempting to cast a ballot a boat point Election Day futile. To the contrary it is incumbent on all American citizens to stand up for their rights by registering to vote. By going to the ballot box by exercising the most fundamental of all rights and by voting for -- prefer candidates of any party. Our democracy is dependent on each of us and -- active participation. In the electoral process. Although today's decision represents a serious and unnecessary set back. The Justice Department remains committed to moving forward in a manner that's consistent with the art of American history. Which has always been a story of increasing equality inclusion. And access to the franchise. This is what makes the United States of America truly exceptional. And this is what we will zealously guard thank you -- That was attorney general Eric Holder responding to the Supreme Court decision. That found a part of the voting rights act unconstitutional. We're joined now. From Washington by ABC's Jeff tell -- we should say the voting rights act as a whole was considered constitutional. But they said one section section -- needed to be updated so Jeff the court is essentially suspended the -- it as a whole -- pending action by congress. How likely at this point is congress to get together and -- net holder had talked about congress unanimously re authorizing the act that now that they have to come together. And present a new formula how likely is that. Well it's really an open question at this point right now senators and and representatives are -- this -- but given up. The a polarized and partisan nature of this congress it's hard to imagine that something like this would be easy. What essentially is at risk here. Or is at stake here are the the Supreme Court was asking congress to update its requirements to use new information. New data and it still saying the congress can set out. And -- which states. Need special. Protections and -- over -- but using contemporary new information but. I had a conversation with congressman John Lewis an icon of the civil rights -- this morning. He says he is very worried about this congress -- polarized congress. Being able to come together and do something that it's done before and a bipartisan fashion and reauthorize the voting rights act. Now we see we actually video of you sitting with the congressman as the decision was being announced. By reporters on television. He's a civil rights hero congressman and war let's have a listen to his response. -- In disbelief. That members of the Supreme Court would take this position. We've come -- distance we made progress. But it still progress to remain. I think put to Supreme Court did was to put a deck that. Never caught with a pulled right -- -- 1965. This I helped liberate. Not just the people what a nation. Well in essence. The court -- did -- try the voting rights act until it is fixed in their opinion. So in essence that there must be a great reaction from the civil rights community that supports the a lot of what has that response -- have we heard anything yet. Shortly in the civil rights community civil rights leaders are largely echoing what congressman Lewis had told us really in the first minutes of him -- processing this ruling. They believe that it is. A it's a bad thing they're sharply critical of the supreme court of this ruling. And day say that they believe that. Elected officials of voting rights officials. All across -- south are essentially put on notice that attack. Even -- the Supreme Court made this ruling that to people still do have the right to vote and this is not 1965. The Supreme Court is not. I'm returning -- country to pre 1965 -- here but what they're saying is they are going to be vigilant they are going to. -- create their own processes and watches to make sure that -- people. Have the right to vote fairly here but I. I expect congress to have have large discussions about this and two beginning. It's -- working on -- -- Both in the senate and the house to. To affix some of this -- mean. It's not good politics for either side necessarily -- -- not have the voting rights act. In -- so. -- look for some type of action on this will it be simple and quick note but. There will be some type of six. Has anyone come out in support of the decision. Meant not at this point mean some senators are certainly are likely to in some members of congress are likely to agree with the majority opinion of course -- was a 54 vote. And most conservatives. Would agree with the majority here in. -- a sense that. There is an update needed I mean and congress essentially the last time the -- voting rights act was updated their. Operating -- 1975. Census data and other things of people certainly believe that. Some updates are needed in terms of the protections that were required back -- may not be needed now so sure they'll be a lot of people agreeing with this but. Ever animals say that they protect the rights have for all to vote that the civil rights community is taking this very hard. And we -- BO raw emotion from congressman John Lewis there he certainly typifies that. You know Eric Holder. Sent out a warning to states that may be considering any kind of discriminatory. He voting changes by saying. This. May be halted right now the voting rights act but he promised swift enforcement and that that's gonna see Supreme Court perhaps more -- -- -- houses without Islam -- and certainly don't have to ask permission first but it states -- moved to change their laws. Holders promising action will -- success possible. True and it's not just states were also talking a local jurisdictions. You know and in a presidential campaign -- it's a lot of attention but what congressman Lewis and others. So that what they really worry about. Are these local elections of people aren't paying that much attention to -- And we already saw -- voting protection in the voter rights protection was a central issue in the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns. And going forward. It would be even more so in the 2016 presidential campaign and certainly -- mid term congressional. Racist city attorney general so that they're going to monitor this -- very swiftly but it's pretty difficult for the federal government to monitor all these separate local jurisdictions of voting. Which is why -- he and others -- that they need some type of new federal law in place before then. And could -- have asked congress to re draft the law while leaving the current process in place that would have covered it concerns that the attorney general has. Sure they could've -- not do that in their ruling. I'm so they did effectively. Strike down. You know the intent and the heart of this thought they left. Standing section five -- -- the a provision of the slot from 1965. -- to says that the federal government. But can have. Special watches in place overstates but so they left that standing but today. Struck down section four which sent what states there -- -- effect essentially they're starting from scratch here. But they're still is the framework to do. Something here but. What what's coming up here this afternoon on Capitol Hill members of the Congressional Black Caucus are speaking out against this. Were looking to for more comments more guidance from a senate leaders on what they're going to do here. And even though Republicans may agree with the majority -- opinion here it is not good politics to be. On the opposite side of the voting rights act per say so the politics of this are very Dicey for both sides -- All right well Jeff we will keep an -- to the reaction that is sure to follow -- he's eluded to. And and we will continue to monitor this story just selling in Washington thank you so much for joining us. You've been watching NBC news digital special report and return to regular -- This has been a special group. Report from me.
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