Vice President Biden said new voter ID laws in North Carolina, Alabama and Texas were evidence of “hatred” and “zealotry” during a Black History Month event at the Naval Observatory on Tuesday.
The vice president said his votes to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act were among his proudest as a senator, and expressed frustration with a recent Supreme Court ruling striking down a crucial provision of the law.
“I thought it was done — finally, finally done,” Biden said.
The ruling struck down a provision of the law that required certain jurisdictions with a history of voting suppression to clear any changes in their voting laws with the Justice Department. The court said Congress could update the pre-clearance formula, but lawmakers have been unable to agree on new standards.
Some Southern states have moved aggressively in the interim to impose new, tougher voter ID requirements. Supporters of the legislation, including many Republicans, argue the new standards help prevent voter fraud. But civil rights groups and Democrats have blasted the legislation as an attempt to suppress the vote among poor and minority voters, who are less likely to have government-issued photo identification. They also argue that instances of voter fraud are exceedingly rare.
“These guys never go away. Hatred never, never goes away,” Biden said. “The zealotry of those who wish to limit the franchise cannot be smothered by reason.”
Biden said both President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder were committed to protecting voting rights, and said he was hopeful Congress would address the Voting Rights Act formula to stop “this kind of malarkey.”
“This fight has been too long, this fight has been too hard, to do anything other than win — not on the margins, but flat-out win,” Biden said.
Holder has sued Texas and North Carolina in bids to overturn the new voter ID laws. And at a speech earlier this month at Georgetown University, Holder called on states to repeal laws that prohibit convicted felons from casting a ballot.
“Those swept up in this system too often had their rights rescinded, their dignity diminished, and the full measure of their citizenship revoked for the rest of their lives,” Holder said.
The vice president and his wife, Jill Biden, hosted around 150 guests for the Black History Month reception at his home. Guests included Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and senior Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett.