As WhyTuesday.org has pointed out, the law mandating federal elections on Tuesdays was crafted in 1845 to accommodate Market Day. “Election Day” should suit contemporary American life: a 24-hour period from noon Saturday to noon Sunday, with early voting the week before. This would eliminate “rush-hour” backlogs early in the morning and at the end of the day, as well as Sabbath problems. If Wal-Mart can stay open 24/7, our democracy can stay open 24 hours once every two years.
Q: Good morning, Mr. President. Good morning, President Sall. Thank you for your hospitality. It’s a pleasure to be in your country. President Obama, two subjects. First of all, picking up on your comments about equal rights under the law, could you give us your gut, your visceral reaction to the Supreme Court’s decision in the voting rights case? Explain legislative remedy you will pursue and the pace of that?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, let me take the issue of voting rights first. The Voting Rights Act, Sections 2, 4, 5 were the cornerstones of providing political power to African Americans that then led to a whole range of other steps to make America more just and more equal. It was the cornerstone and the culmination of years of struggle — blood, sweat, tears — in some cases, deaths.
I might not be here as President had it not been for those who courageously helped to pass the Voting Rights Act. I think that the Supreme Court made a mistake in its ruling, but that decision is now here. I think the Supreme Court didn’t recognize the degree to which voter suppression is still a problem around the country, and that it makes sense for us to put in place mechanisms to check practices and procedures that may make it harder for people to vote in those areas where there’s been a history in the past of discrimination.
And part of the reason, Major, is because even though law suits can still be filed now if there’s discrimination, if you don’t have the structure of Section 4 and Section 5 in place ahead of time, the election may be over by the time law suits are filed or a court rules. And oftentimes, it may be too late.
Having said that, the Supreme Court has ruled and Congress can’t overturn this particular aspect of their ruling. The good news is that there are other potential remedies, and the most important one is to simply make sure that everybody around the country can vote and that everywhere around the country we’re not seeing seven-hour lines — we’re not seeing mechanisms put in place to make it harder for people to vote, but rather we should have mechanisms that make it easier to vote. And that is within Congress’s power. Congress doesn’t have to target or identify a particular jurisdiction. What it can do now is to say, regardless of where you are — regardless of where you live — there are going to be certain rules that apply to elections.
And as you know, right after the election when we had already seen some of these problems, I assigned a close advisor of mine, Bob Bauer, to work with a close advisor of Mitt Romney’s. They’re going to be issuing a report in terms of how we can start making it easier for folks to vote. I recognize that whenever you get into voting rights issues, inevitably some partisan thoughts cross people’s minds about who is it going to advantage or disadvantage.
But in the wake of this Supreme Court ruling, surely we can all agree that people should be able to vote. They shouldn’t be restricted from voting or have to jump through a whole bunch of hoops in order to vote, and that there should be some uniformity in terms of how that right is upheld. It’s the cornerstone of our democracy. It’s what makes our democracy work. And I’m looking forward to working with both Democrats and Republicans in a non-partisan basis to make sure that if you’re a citizen of the United States of America, you can vote without a whole bunch of barriers, regardless of your race or your political leaning. So that’s on the voting rights issue.
Statement by the President on the Supreme Court Ruling on Shelby County v. Holder
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 25, 2013
I am deeply disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision today. For nearly 50 years, the Voting Rights Act – enacted and repeatedly renewed by wide bipartisan majorities in Congress – has helped secure the right to vote for millions of Americans. Today’s decision invalidating one of its 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.
As a nation, we’ve made a great deal of progress towards guaranteeing every American the right to vote. But, as the Supreme Court recognized, voting discrimination still exists. And while today’s decision is a setback, it doesn’t represent the end of our efforts to end voting discrimination. I am calling on Congress to pass legislation to ensure every American has equal access to the polls. My Administration will continue to do everything in its power to ensure a fair and equal voting process.
Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote.
So, President Obama, as you place your hand upon the bibles of both Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr., I pray that you will be inspired by the courage and conviction of these two great men who paid the ultimate price for the right to vote. I pray that you will listen carefully to the words of Lyndon B. Johnson which still echo throughout the Capitol, and be inspired by that courageous Southerner who sacrificed his political life for the sake of a greater good. I pray that you will feel the strength of Martin’s voice as he stood at the Lincoln Memorial urging our nation to make good on a 100 year old “unfulfilled promise.
Whether you voted for the first time, or waited in line for a very long time… by the way we have to fix that.
President Obama is voting early today. But If he was from these 15 states, he wouldn’t have that option and could vote on Tuesday only.