Obama: Court erred on voting rights

President Obama said the Supreme Court “made a mistake” in rejecting the heart of the Voting Rights Act earlier this week and urged Congress to take action to make it easier for voters to cast ballots.

Obama said the high court didn't recognize “the degree to which voter suppression is still a problem around the country” in his first public remarks on the case.

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Speaking at a news conference in Dakar, Senegal, Obama said continued voter suppression means it makes sense to “put in place mechanisms to check the 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.”

Lawmakers in both parties have expressed disappointment in the 5-4 Supreme Court ruling, which said a formula used to determine whether certain areas of the country must get federal approval to change their voting laws was outdated.

Rep. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.), who authored the last renewal of the law, has said he will work with members on both sides of the aisle to write a new bill, but an agreement could be tough given tensions between the two parties.

Complaints about long lines were common during the 2012 elections, and Obama has repeatedly said he would seek to do something to change that.

He said it was in Congress’s power to make sure that “everyone around the country can vote and that everywhere around the country, we're not seeing seven-hour lines.”

“Congress doesn't have to target or identify a particular jurisdiction,” Obama said. “What it can do now is to say, 'regardless of where you are ... there are going to be certain rules that apply to elections.'”

In the voting rights decision, the court said it was unfair to have certain parts of the country be subject to “preclearance” rules that were outdated.