On Monday afternoon, President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. and Labor Secretary Tom Perez met with a coalition of civil rights leaders at the White House to emphasize the administration’s commitment to ensuring full access to the polls.
During the 45-minute meeting, the president told the advocates, which included leaders of African American, Hispanic and Asian groups, that they should report violations directly to the Justice Department, the advocates said.
The meeting follows the 5-4 decision of the Supreme Court last month to invalidate a key portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.“We’ve been assured by the president and the attorney general that they will continue to aggressively fight to protect the right of all Americans to vote,” said the Rev. Al Sharpton, who attended the meeting. “They are open to many of us on the ground to continue to use the Voting Rights Act – it is not dead -- and to be resources to bring any violation of voting rights directly to the Justice Department. We are very encouraged by that.”
Holder has already announced that the Justice Department would take aggressive steps in a number of voting rights cases around the nation, including a high-profile Texas redistricting case.
The civil rights leaders said they will hold a rally in Washington on Aug. 24 on the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington in 1963, at which they will launch a national voter registration and mobilization drive.
Alan Williams, a state representative in Florida who was at the White House meeting, noted that Trayvon Martin, the Florida teen who was slain last year in a case that drew national attention on race relations, would have turned 18 and been eligible to vote in 2014.
“That’s very sacred and it’s not lost on us,” Williams said. “We’re going to make sure that everyone has that opportunity.”