U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder calls Supreme Court decision eliminating key portions of Voting Rights Act “an unnecessary setback”

Eric Holder | 6/26/2013, 12:20 p.m.

As the president has made clear, Congress needs to act to make sure every American has equal access to the polls. The Justice Department also will work with Congress and other elected and community leaders to formulate potential legislative proposals to address voting rights discrimination—because, on their own, existing statutes cannot totally fill the void left by the Supreme Court ruling. And I am hopeful that new protections can and will pass in this session of Congress.

The Voting Rights Act has always had strong bipartisan support on Capitol Hill, and the recent ruling should not change that. This is not a partisan issue, it’s an American issue—because our democracy is founded on ensuring that every eligible citizen has access to the ballot box.

Finally, we need to be clear about what happened. Part of the Voting Rights Act, but not all of it, was struck down. The constitutionally protected voting rights of all Americans remain fully intact. And the right to vote, free from discrimination based on race or language, requires our vigilant protection.

We know from many decades of long, hard struggle that the best way to defend a right is to go out and exercise it. So no one should conclude that Tuesday’s unfortunate decision has rendered voting rights invalid, or has made attempting to cast a ballot on Election Day futile.

To the contrary, it is incumbent on all American citizens to stand up for their rights by registering to vote, going to the ballot box, exercising that most fundamental of rights, and voting for their preferred candidates of any party.

Our democracy is dependent on each of us, and on our active participation in the electoral process. Although The Supreme Court decision represents a serious and unnecessary setback, the Justice Department remains committed to moving forward in a manner that’s consistent with the arc of American history—which has always been a story of increasing equality, inclusion and access to the franchise.

This is what makes the United States of America truly exceptional. And this is what we will zealously guard.

Eric Holder is the U.S. Attorney General