Obama's administration has challenged states that have implemented
voter ID laws and other restrictions in the wake of a Supreme Court
decision that struck down part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act,
designed to prevent discrimination at the polls.
Strict voting rights laws are said to disproportionately affect
minorities and lower-income Americans, many of whom tend to vote for
"The stark, simple truth is this: The right to vote is threatened
today in a way that it has not been since the Voting Rights Act
became law nearly five decades ago," Obama told a meeting of the
National Action Network, a group founded by civil rights leader and
MSNBC television anchor Reverend Al Sharpton.
"Across the country, Republicans have led efforts to pass laws
making it harder, not easier, for people to vote," he said.
Last year the Obama administration sued North Carolina to block
rules including a requirement for voters to show photo
identification at the polls. The Justice Department also sued to
keep Texas from carrying out a voter identification requirement
enacted in 2011.
Proponents of such rules argue they are needed to prevent voter
North Carolina Republican Governor Pat McCrory signed the state's
sweeping voting changes into law in August, saying: "Common
practices like boarding an airplane and purchasing Sudafed require
photo ID, and we should expect nothing less for the protection of
our right to vote."
Obama said studies showed abuse was extremely rare.
"The real voter fraud is people who try to deny our rights by making
bogus arguments about voter fraud," he said to applause from the
"But it's a fact this recent effort to restrict the vote has not
been led by both parties. It's been led by the Republican Party," he
continued. "If your strategy depends on having fewer people show up
to vote, that's not a sign of strength. That's a sign of weakness."
[to top of second column]
The president has been targeting Republicans on issues that are
important to Democrats ahead of congressional elections in November.
The Republican National Committee said his Friday speech was all
"President Obama was in campaign mode today with a speech designed
to mobilize his base," said Orlando Watson, an RNC spokesman. "The
president made clear that the biggest problem for Democrats in 2014
is voter enthusiasm not voter access."
Obama flew to Texas earlier this week to commemorate the 50th
anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the
landmark legislation spearheaded by President Lyndon B. Johnson that
helped end America's segregationist past.
Obama praised Johnson for pushing the Voting Rights Act despite
counsel from some of his advisers to wait.
"Johnson said, 'About this there can and should be no argument.
Every American citizen must have an equal right to vote," Obama
said, quoting the former president.
"The principle of one person, one vote is the single greatest tool
we have to redress an unjust status quo. You would think there would
not be an argument about this anymore."
(Editing by Lisa Shumaker)
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