However, in 2013, the US Supreme Court cast some doubt on the Act with a five-to-four majority ruling that invalidated key provisions of the law. The decision opened the pathway for voter identification laws and redistricting in several states, while leaving strengthening the law to congressional action.
“There are still too many ways in which people are discouraged from voting, some of the protections that had been enshrined in the voting rights act itself had been weaken as a consequence of court decisions and interpretations of the law,” Obama said on Thursday.
Obama warned that around the country some state legislatures have been “deliberately trying to make it harder for people to vote,” and stressed that Americans need to “fight back” against their efforts.
In his speech on Thursday, Obama urged Congress to act to address deficiencies in the Voting Rights Act that is leading to disenfranchisement.
“We have got serious business to attend to here. One order of business is for our Congress to pass an updated version of the Voting Rights Act that would correct some of the problems that have arisen."
US civil rights groups have been against voter ID laws, which require voters to present an official ID in order to vote.
Poor people and minorities are less likely to possess government-issued photo identification than whites, and voter turnout has decreased in US states that have voter identification laws, according to a Government Accountability Office study.
Some thirty US states require photo identification in order to vote, but 21 million citizens — mostly minorities and low income — do not have government photo identification, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Only 36 percent of US citizens bothered to vote in the 2014 mid-term elections, according to data compiled by the US Election Project.