April 11th, 2014
10:43 AM ET
6 months ago

Obama says voter rights threatened from ID laws

Updated 4:41 p.m. ET, 4/11/2014

New York (CNN) – If President Barack Obama's remarks Thursday at Lyndon Johnson's presidential library were meant to honor the legacy of the civil rights movement, Friday's speech to a rights group in New York focused on an area where activists say work remains in achieving racial equality.

Obama addressed voting rights as part of his speech to Al Sharpton's National Action Network, continuing the White House's effort to spotlight Republican-backed measures they say place undue hardships on voting for minorities, students and immigrants.

They hope the issue will help galvanize voters to elect Democrats in this year's midterm elections, where the party's control of the Senate appears in jeopardy.

Obama said on Friday the right to vote is "threatened today" in a way that hasn't been seen since before the Voting Rights Act became law nearly 50 years ago.

He said he's not against "reasonable attempts to secure the vote." But he said he is against rules requiring IDs that millions of Americans don't have. Not having such required identification "shouldn't prevent you from exercising your right to vote," he said.

Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder have both taken on the issue in the past week, each declaring that voting rights were a top priority for the administration.

Obama's Justice Department has filed suit against Texas and North Carolina, seeking to block proposed voter ID laws in each state and claiming the regulations are discriminatory to people who don't have photo identification - a group that includes a large number of minorities.

Proponents of voter ID laws say they're designed to prevent fraud at the ballot box.

North Carolina's law also shortened the period of early voting, eliminated same-day registration, and put some restrictions on how provisional ballots are counted.

A rash of new voting laws - and the subsequent lawsuits - are a consequence of last year's Supreme Court decision that struck down a portion of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The invalidated section required certain states to obtain permission from the federal government before altering voting laws.

In the ruling, justices said Congress must re-determine how places are put on the list using updated data - a tough proposition for a body already mired in partisan gridlock. Lawmakers last reauthorized that "pre-clearance" requirement in 2006 without making any major changes to the method of how a place is included on the list of states needing federal permission.

House and Senate lawmakers have introduced bipartisan measures that would require states with recent voting violations to have their proposed changes approved by the federal government, though voter ID laws would be permitted.

The White House hasn't said yet whether Obama would support the measure, saying only the President welcomed Congressional action on the issue.

The original voting rights act was passed in 1965 under President Lyndon B. Johnson, whose legacy Obama hailed on Thursday during remarks in Austin.

Obama, along with three other living presidents, convened at the library this week to mark the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, which for the first time outlawed discrimination in public places.

During his remarks, President Bill Clinton accused those who support new voting laws of retracting important progress in achieving equality.

"We all know what this is about. This is a way of restricting the franchise after 50 years of expanding it," Clinton said.


Filed under: Al Sharpton • New York • President Obama
soundoff (101 Responses)
  1. bill

    Let me get this straight. It's too hard to get a photo ID but trying to get FORCED health care is not? What's wrong with this picture? [pun intented]

    April 11, 2014 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  2. rs

    As someone who grew up during of age during the Civil Rights era of the 1960s, and saw the obvious benefits of beating back segregationist attitudes and raw prejudice, expanded voting rights, and the end of Jim Crow laws- and who witnesses the bravery and dignity of people who fought for civil rights- including, I might add, Republicans it is horrifying to contemplate the return to the dark days of separation, and the curtailment of rights for minorities, the poor, and women as the Right is apparently embracing today.

    It seems inconceivable that a platform that really translates as: "I'll take away your ability to get health care", or "I'll take away your right to vote (because you'll need to buy an ID, or because you are a shut-in, or because you're a college student- or even just because I'll make it impossible for you to cast a vote and still get to work on-time") is numbing and indeed frightening, or those who would say: "you may marry- but your marriage or your rights aren't legitimate" (and base that on "religion"), or "you no longer have the right to quality public education, or affordable college". And why? So rich people can get bigger tax breaks? So we can say "we're not "socialists"? Because we hate "takers"?

    No, not just because as a society we take a giant step backwards- no, because of whose voice we then let dictate our future, and all those people whose lives we change for the worse, and all those people we simply make invalid again.

    No, sir, no going back.

    April 11, 2014 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  3. rs

    bill

    Let me get this straight. It's too hard to get a photo ID but trying to get FORCED health care is not? What's wrong with this picture? [pun intented]
    ____________________________________________
    No, it's about needing MORE ID- sometimes at a cost (and "poll taxes" are illegal). It is about making people get that ID at great distances, when there is no transportation to do so. It is "purging voter rolls, but not telling voters their names are now invalid until they try to vote. It is using the excuse of 63 invalid votes nationwide to throw millions of voters into illegitimacy.
    It is cowardly and craven to make getting a gun easier than to cast a vote.

    And that the Right and the Heritage Foundation fought for the "personal mandate" in the ACA-thank them.

    April 11, 2014 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  4. Silence DoGood

    @bill
    Let me get this straight. It's too hard to get a photo ID but trying to get FORCED health care is not? What's wrong with this picture? [pun intented]
    -------
    It is not too hard. Anything that delays or impedes voting benefits conservative voting. It has long been known and that is why conservatives always push a little blockage here a little blockage there.

    In the extreme we have seen a number of rich conservatives simply say the poor should not vote or vote as much as the rich. Conservatism is best served and maintained by a "managed" (gag) voting system.

    BUT: The most common Constitutional Amendment grouping is more voting rights and less voting blockage. Women, former slaves, Wash DC, no poll tax.

    April 11, 2014 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  5. yolanda

    I had the pleasure of living in England for a number of years. I was required to carry my resident ID at all times. I did not find it to be a hardship or an insult. I am all for everyone who has the legal right to vote being able to do so. Instead of acting as if having (or obtaining) a photo ID is an undo hardship, why not help the (small number) of people who do not have the necessary ID get one? If someone can make it to the polls to vote, why can't they travel to the nearest courthouse, police station, etc. to get photographed? No birth certificate? Please. That number is miniscule and those folks can be helped to get the necessary documentation by these same people who seem more interested in calling foul than in rectifying the situation. The bigger travesty is how few people actually vote.....

    April 11, 2014 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  6. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    It's not just about getting ID's. It's about changing voting hours, days etc. As for the ID's there are many elderly blacks that never had driving licenses or ID's, they didn't need it back in the day. They went to the same banks and stores to handle their business where they were known. Also I agree we need federal monitors to oversee elections. The GOP will do anything to win and cheating is at the top of their list. Remember the guy from PA bragging that they had endured Willard a victory in 2012?? I do.

    As for needing ID to cash a check. A non-issue, no one rarely gets checks anymore. Everything is electronic now. Including SS and Disability.

    April 11, 2014 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  7. Anonymous

    bill

    Let me get this straight. It's too hard to get a photo ID but trying to get FORCED health care is not? What's wrong with this picture? [pun intented]
    --------------------------------
    Yes, and Republicans are taking measures to make it difficult. When Pennsylvania passed their Voter ID law, the lawmakers acknowledged that there were an estimated 700,000 people without them, but they only budgeted money at state DMV offices for 70,000. In Cincinnati, lawmakers moved the early polling locations outside of downtown Cincinnati to a location that is more than a hour bus ride away, and then you must still walk a significant distance still. Total roundtrip travel time, 3-4 hours.

    April 11, 2014 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  8. Bill from GA

    I don't deny that republicans are trying to win elections by suppressing the vote, but the difference I saw in voter turnout in 2008 and 2010 had nothing to do with vote suppression. It was lazy or apathetic voters. In 2008, where I vote, the lines were over 300 feet long. In 2010, with fewer booths used, I walked in and voted, immediately. I have voted absentee since then.

    And, BTW, it was 2010 when Georgia elected our governor, who has more influence on voting regulations than any other person. But that was not important enough to get the voters out. Its easier to complain than to actually do what you can to change something. Its easier to blame rotten republicans.

    April 11, 2014 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  9. smith

    I don`t see the issue with showing a photo ID to vote. How do you really function in life without an ID? Sounds like the people against the ID law want voter fraud.

    April 11, 2014 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  10. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    Oops... That should have read ensuring Willard a victory. Dang Auto-correct!

    April 11, 2014 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  11. smith 1

    I see there is another smith. One who does not understand the way the repos are trying to obstruct the voters. Changing hours shorting voting times all effect peoples ability to vote. When you do vote . Vote the repos out.

    April 11, 2014 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  12. Rudy NYC

    smith

    I don`t see the issue with showing a photo ID to vote. How do you really function in life without an ID? Sounds like the people against the ID law want voter fraud.
    --------------------
    The issue is obtaining the IDs, smith. The issue is actually being able to use the ID to vote when you have one.

    People are being forced to pay for a copy of their birth certificate. Some states are cutting their budgets for ID production, cutting the hours of operation of offices to obtain them, cutting hours of early voting, moving polling places to inconvenient locations, and other suppression tactics.

    April 11, 2014 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  13. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Oh please.
    Why are some of you acting like you don't know exactly what's going on/
    Less polling places in SOME areas.
    Cutting back on voting times and voting days in SOME areas.
    Making some ID's unnaceptable to cast your ballot.
    Gerrymadering, re-districting.
    Come on people.
    The GOP can't win in a level playing field.
    They tried out SOME of their tactics in 2012.
    They're ready for a full-blown roll-out in 2016.
    They want to win and they realize the only chance they have seeing how they have no viable candidates and no viable platform is by doing their best to exclude the very folks they claim they are "reaching out" to.

    April 11, 2014 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  14. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    I'll tell you Smith, when I voted in 2012 it was the first time I ever had to show ID and I was angry. Not because I was committing any type of fraud but because it was stupid. In MI when you apply for your DL or ID card, you're asked if you want to register to vote. I always say yes. You fill out your voter registration at the same time you apply for your license or ID. Your name is then put on the voters registration list and prior to 2012 all you needed was your voter registration card. When you go to your assigned polling place they have a listing of all registered voters for the area. You show your voter registration card, they cross your name off the list and are given a ballot. What's the sense of issuing voter registration cards if they're useless?

    April 11, 2014 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  15. Sniffit

    "I don't deny that republicans are trying to win elections by suppressing the vote, but the difference I saw in voter turnout in 2008 and 2010 had nothing to do with vote suppression. It was lazy or apathetic voters."

    Comparing a POTUS election year to a mid-term election year is not apples to apples.

    April 11, 2014 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  16. TONE

    People who are trying to take away your right to vote should be fired. November get out their and fire all, every single republican in congress, and the senate these people are a disgrace to this nation.

    April 11, 2014 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  17. Fair is Fair

    I find it pretty amazing that the HHS Secretary "resigns" (meaning Obama the misogynist FIRED her)... and there's a piddling little article from overinght on this major story. Nothing to see here... move along... it's all over folks... please keep moving along...

    April 11, 2014 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  18. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    Spot on DM!!!

    April 11, 2014 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  19. just asking

    require people to show their obamacare proof of health insurance. everybody is now required by law to have it right?

    the only voter suppression going on in this country is being down by the democrats and their use of the irs to suppress opposition groups and harrass them into submission. they saw the power of the tea party in 2010 and are using all means possible, legal and illegal, to keep them from defeating democrats like they did in 2010.

    and now all of america knows this.

    April 11, 2014 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  20. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    I don't know about that Fair. I heard on GMA this morning that she approached the President about a month ago and said she wanted to resign. I haven't heard anything about him forcing her out. But if I'm not mistaken weren't many of you saying she should be fired anyways? You know during the website rollout.

    April 11, 2014 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  21. Rudy NYC

    Personally, I think 2010 just may have an outlier. Democrats turned out in 2006 in enough numbers to take the House and Senate. Yeah, we have redrawn the districts now, but most voters were voting against the ACA in 2010.

    I think most voters will be voting *for* the ACA in 2014. Apparently, Republicans think that people are stupid enough to not notice that they're campaigning on taking health care insurance away from millions of people. Apparently, Repubilcans think that no one will notice what the Ryan budget actually contains. Apparently, Republicans think that people are stupid enough to believe the claims they make about "what the American people want." Apparently, Republicans think there enough voters who are just plain dumb, and to a large extent they're right.

    April 11, 2014 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  22. Tony D

    Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....
    I'll tell you Smith, when I voted in 2012 it was the first time I ever had to show ID and I was angry.
    -–

    I am even more angry when my vote and thousands more are nullified by people illegally voting when they are not citizens and people voting more than once in multiple states and localities.

    Why do Democrats openly support the ability to perpetrate election fraud? Something is wrong with a party that doesn't want to protect the integrity of our elections.

    April 11, 2014 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  23. it must be asked

    Will Democrats at least support the dipping of thumbs in blue ink to keep people from voting twice? No ID required for that!

    April 11, 2014 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  24. Lizzie

    Wake Up People! ......... So how do they collect their benefits without an ID.

    April 11, 2014 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  25. Rudy NYC

    Fair is Fair

    I find it pretty amazing that the HHS Secretary "resigns" (meaning Obama the misogynist FIRED her)... and there's a piddling little article from overinght on this major story. Nothing to see here... move along... it's all over folks... please keep moving along...
    ----------------------------–
    Patience, Fair. You're sounding like a hard core partisan.
    They're just probably waiting for the announcement later today for a replacement.

    April 11, 2014 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
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