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Dem Rep. Ellison: Obama should be ‘firmer’ on voting rights

“I think the president really cares about voting rights, he made it clear in the State of the Union speech how much he cared, he talked about the need to protect the right to vote and I think he’s been pretty consistent,” Ellison said. “But I would really welcome a statement from the president that’s firmer and clearer and tries to really pull all parties together to come up with a consensus around setting up a new formula.”

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On Tuesday, the high court struck down the formula used to decide which state and local governments need to seek federal approval for changes to voting laws.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion in the 5-4 ruling, and said Congress could write a new formula to protect minority voters. The existing formula had been in place since 1965 and had been regularly re-approved by Congress.

President Obama released a statement on Tuesday that was sharply critical of the ruling, saying he was “deeply disappointed” and vowing that it “it doesn’t represent the end of our efforts to end voting discrimination.” 

Attorney General Eric Holder also called a last-minute press conference in which he said the Justice Department would “not hesitate to take swift enforcement action, using every legal tool that remains available to us, against any jurisdiction that seeks to take advantage of the Supreme Court's ruling by hindering eligible citizens' full and free exercise of the franchise.”

Ellison said Republicans should consider the Supreme Court ruling an opening to work with Democrats to reform the law, arguing it would tie neatly into GOP efforts to rebrand as a more inclusive party.

“I think that as Republicans look at the immigration bill, as we look at this recent event with the Voting Rights Act – this is a chance for them to really rebrand,” he said. “This is a chance for them to say, you know, we’re an inclusive party. See us working on immigration and voting rights reform, we’re all in and trying to make a solution work for all people.”