ABOVE PHOTO: President Barack Obama meets with Civil Rights Leaders in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, July 29, 2013.
(Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
By Valerie Jarrett
Last week, President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, and Secretary of Labor Tom Perez met with civil rights leaders, and state and local elected
officials at the White House to discuss how to safeguard every eligible American’s right to vote in light of the recent Supreme Court decision on Shelby
County vs. Holder.
The Supreme Court’s decision invalidating one of the Voting Rights Act’s core provisions, upsets decades of well-established practices that help make sure
voting is fair, especially in places where voting discrimination has been historically prevalent.
President Obama acknowledged that for nearly 50 years, the Voting Rights Act has helped secure the right to vote for millions of Americans, and expressed
deep disappointment about the recent decision. He asked the leaders in the room for their ideas on how to strengthen voting rights, and also encouraged
them to continue educating their communities on the Voting Rights Act, and how to exercise voting rights.
We’ve seen much progress towards guaranteeing every American the right to vote. But, as the Supreme Court recognized, voting discrimination still exists.
And while the decision is a setback, it doesn’t represent the end of either our efforts to end voting discrimination, or our basic right to vote.
Since the decision, President Obama has called on Congress to pass legislation to ensure every American has equal access to the polls. The Voting Rights
Act has been reauthorized repeatedly by wide bipartisan margins in Congress, and signed into law by Republican presidents. In addition, every single
American should have an interest in ensuring that every eligible American is able to exercise his or her right to vote. So we remain hopeful that we will
find a legislative solution to ensure a fair, and equal voting process.
The meeting was another step forward to protect the vote, and we will continue to do everything in our power to secure this most basic right for all
The meeting’s participants included:
•Barbara Arnwine, President & Executive Director, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
•Napoleon Bracy, Alabama State Representative
•Roslyn Brock, Chairman, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Board of Directors
•John Echohawk, Executive Director, Native American Rights Fund
•Margaret Fung, Executive Director, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund
•Wade Henderson, President and CEO, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
•Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.
•Trey Martinez Fischer, Texas State Representative
•Marc Morial, President and CEO, National Urban League
•Mee Moua, President and Executive Director, Asian Americans Advancing Justice
•Janet Murguia, President & CEO, National Council of La Raza
•Laura Murphy, Director, American Civil Liberties Union
•Kasim Reed, Mayor of Atlanta
•Thomas Saenz, President & General Counsel, The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund
•Al Sharpton, President & Founder, National Action Network
•Calvin Smyre, Georgia State Representative
•Alan Williams, Florida State Representative