Obama Heads South Amid Voter ID Uproar

“…we briefed them on our outrage at the Supreme Court's recent decision…”

-- MSNBC host Al Sharpton in a Huffington Post article describing the nature of a White House meeting between him and other minority advocacy groups and President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder.

President Obama today makes a rare foray into the South to discuss his proposal to lower corporate tax rates in exchange for a one-time tax penalty to fund increased domestic spending.

Obama is making his pitch for his tax and spending proposal in Chattanooga, Tenn. at an Amazon.com shipping center. The White House says this is an example of the kind of business that can provide middle-income jobs the president says should be the foundation of America’s new economy – if the federal government spends more money on transportation, education and other programs.

Obama ally and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced a hiring spree of 5,000 workers at similar centers and other Amazon.com facilities ahead of the visit. The argument is that these are the jobs of the Obama economy and more federal spending will produce more of them.

But while Obama thinks that the residents of East Tennessee are qualified to pack and ship boxes for Seattle-based Amazon.com, does he think that they are qualified to regulate their own elections like the folks at Amazon HQ?

Obama had a White House meeting Monday with MSNBC’s Al Sharpton and leaders of minority groups, including the heads of the Urban League and the National Council of La Raza (The Race).

The topic of discussion was ways in which President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder could work around a Supreme  Court decision that decreed the formula for determining which states were covered by the 1965 Voting Rights Act was outdated. The net effect is that the federal government can no longer block states from changing their election laws.


Sharpton and his allies are furious, arguing that the predominantly Republican southern states will now be able to disenfranchise minority voters by requiring voters to show identification at polling places. The requirement of showing a state-issued ID will function like a poll tax since the processing fees and inconvenience of obtaining identification will be a barrier to poor voters, many of whom are minorities.

But the Supreme Court ruled that determining which states would be deprived of their rights to regulate their own elections was outmoded in the era of high black turnout and easy-access voting. New standards, the justices said, would need to be set to prevent racially discriminatory voting restrictions.

Obama and Holder agree with Sharpton et.al. that the decision was wrong and is a step back for black Americans and are looking at ways to block states from changing their voting rules in the name of curbing fraud. That war will rage for years to come since Congress is unlikely to take up the Supreme Court’s offer to host a national debate over which states should be deemed too racist to regulate their own elections. Not exactly a good midterm talking point.

But Chattanooga, aside from being a place where Amazon has a “fulfillment” center, is one of those places that is still covered by the law since it was set aside -- “bailed in” – under the law. That is to say that while Tennessee was deemed able to regulate its own elections, the city of Chattanooga is still subject to potential federal “preclearance” because of the abuses of decades past.

So a logical question as the president heads to Chattanooga: Is it right for the people of Chattanooga to be deemed exemplars of the new Obama economy pumping packing peanuts for Bezos, but not advanced enough to regulate their own elections?

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News, and his POWER PLAY column appears Monday-Friday on FoxNews.com. Catch Chris Live online daily at 11:30amET  at  http:live.foxnews.com.