April 11th, 2014
10:43 AM ET
9 years 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.

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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. Tom l

    Just another non-issue. Another bogus issue that divides us courtesy of the Democrats as they try to bring up race. Can't we all just get along?

    April 11, 2014 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  2. Chuck

    What a pathetic man

    April 11, 2014 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  3. smith

    @Ron L-You don`t think people work on Sat. Its called laziness and waiting to the last minute to get their butt out there and vote.

    April 11, 2014 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  4. Silence DoGood

    @Sniffit- Saying there is no voter fraud is like saying people buying alcohol and tobacco when they are underage doesn`t happend. Who debunked voter fraud? Mother Jones?
    I can find a lot of studies and legal investigations using 10 brain cells and 30 seconds on that Google thing you have heard so much about.

    Instead of taking evolution out of schools, we should be adding more math and critical thinking and real history.

    April 11, 2014 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  5. Silence DoGood

    @Marcus (from...?)
    Lizzie – Coleman filled all the appeals he had the right to fill, he had his day(s) in court(s) as he had the right to, and he loss his case. He conceded, you should do the same.
    Keeping Conspiracy Theories alive is much easier than research and critical thinking.
    BTW – all the missing votes are in a secret vault in Area 51.
    I am sorry – I cannot be kind when I see such pride taken in ignorance.

    April 11, 2014 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  6. Marcus (from...?)

    smith – regarding the Franken/Coleman case.
    Minnesota Majority (conservative watchdog group) claimed that there were 1359 convicted felons who had voted in the 2008 election, implying that they were all (D) voters (just like Pawlenty did afterwards BTW).
    After cutting out of their list people who just happened to have the same name of convicted felons (OOOOPS!) and other cases of erros in the MM list, the authorities had less than 400 names.
    After all these years, and a proper investigation, the list of people charged and convicted of any crime regarding voter fraud in that election is...? Well, I found ONE case (and the lady was found not guilty in her trial BTW).

    April 11, 2014 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  7. gbreeza

    You think making it harder to vote for people who usually vote democrat is a non-issue. Save me the bull. Last voting cycle was one of the worst organized ever and needs to be addressed.

    April 11, 2014 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  8. Marcus (from...?)

    Me and my typos... it's 'errors' not 'erros'...

    April 11, 2014 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  9. smith

    @Marcus-I never brought up Al from Minn. Your confused.

    April 11, 2014 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  10. NameCraig

    Obama seems willing to do anything to keep Libs in control, His moral compass is spinning out of control, I wish God could help us , But he won't never does! We the working class tax payers are our only hope. Don't sing up for his shamefull example of health care and show some moral statue yourself

    April 11, 2014 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  11. Marcus (from...?)

    Smith – I brought them because it is a way to prove, the whole recounting and MM list and loacal authorities answer to the MM list and all that are public acts that are not very hard to find IF YOU GO LOOKING FOR THEM, that if you REALLY look into the matter of 'voter fraud' in an election in the USA you DO find cases where it happened (or it was alleged that it had happened) bu NOT in any number or shape that could justify the scare attributed to it.
    Think about in all the money and time that could have been saved if the Minnesota Majority had not made sucha big (and factually challenged) list... Instead of doing their job the authorities had to chase ghosts for years, all in the name of 'voter fraud causing the unfair election of the wrong guy/gal'.
    I just gave you an example.

    April 11, 2014 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  12. smith

    @Silence-Who? wHat studies? How could somebody conduct a study involving millions of people and prove there wasn`t one case of voter fraud?

    April 11, 2014 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  13. smith

    @Marcus- Your point is moot. I never implied it was widespread.

    April 11, 2014 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  14. Rick McDaniel

    They really are running scared of losing this round.........and they deserve to lose!

    April 11, 2014 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  15. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    I also love it when people try to pretend race is not an issue in this country. When a certain group stops seeing themselves as superior we can talk. Until then you're being disingenuous.

    April 11, 2014 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  16. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    Nathan Sprool people. Google him. There is your voter fraud and he was hired by the GOP to ensure President Mittens a victory.

    April 11, 2014 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  17. Silence DoGood

    @Silence-Who? wHat studies? How could somebody conduct a study involving millions of people and prove there wasn`t one case of voter fraud?
    Read my earlier posts as examples. I am not going to cast more pearls.
    I didn't say there wasn't one .... oh never mind.
    Ben Franklin, I would like to apologize for the low mental state this country has sunk to.
    Your legacy deserves better.

    April 11, 2014 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  18. Sniffit

    "Saying there is no voter fraud is like saying people buying alcohol and tobacco when they are underage doesn`t happend. Who debunked voter fraud? Mother Jones?"

    LOL. No it's not. Studies show underage drinking is actually a widespread problem. Conversely, studies show voter fraud is not. Your analogy is broken because you just compared watermelons to Kate Upton...hehe...which I'm sure has been done before, but, well, I still wouldn't want to cuddle with a watermelon.

    April 11, 2014 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  19. Rudy NYC


    @Rudy- What a bunch of excuses.I don`t see anybody on the repub side complaining, they have elderly voters and folks with tight schedules. If you want to vote you have to put at least a tad bit of effort.
    Excuses? Most voting conservatives seem to have the proper ID already, a gun permit. They were given a heads up.

    Effort, as in standing in long lines for hours and hours just to vote because the number of polling places has been cut?
    Effort, as in taking a 3-4 hour round trip on a bus to vote and a day off from work, when it used to be a 1 hour trip on a bus? Effort, as in coughing up the cash that you don't have for a copy of your birth certificate?
    Effort, as in taking another bus trip and a day off from work just to obtain the proper ID?
    Do you mean that kind of effort?

    April 11, 2014 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  20. barryinlasvegas

    Obama is going to give a primer on how to get illegals to vote for Democrats and not fear the attorney general or the law.

    April 11, 2014 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  21. tom l

    Nobody has ever said that race isn't an issue. But it is not nearly the issue that the left brings it out to be. There is racism in this country and will never go away in a free country. What IS disingenuous is to make it out that it is a major issue and to not acknowledge how far this country has come from just 50 years ago. It's odd that liberals, who always say it's time to progress, live in the past so much. In the article earlier today about Dingell where he said the air was toxic back when the Civil Rights Act of 1964, there was a comment comparing the TEA Party to the opposition to the bill. Now THAT is not only disingenuous and disgusting, it is just flat out incorrect.
    I will repeat, there is racism here, but it is not what it was before and it would help a lot to acknowledge the progress we have made.

    April 11, 2014 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  22. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    Give it a rest Tom I. Until you have this gorgeous permanent tan that I'm sporting, your rhetoric is useless. You have absolutely no idea what black people go through on a daily basis and if other races had to deal with the same things, they wouldn't know what to do!!

    We're survivors!!! TGIF!!!

    April 11, 2014 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  23. smith

    @Sniffit-I`ll pose the same question to you. What study has shown an election with millions of people that there wasn`t one case of voter fraud?

    April 11, 2014 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  24. Sniffit

    "Nobody has ever said that race isn't an issue."

    Oh yes they have. All the freekin time. And it's a total lie. Are we to believe that a party's entire policy platform is just "coincidentally" built almost entirely out of planks that would have disparate and adverse impacts on the minority community? That's some serious peyote-binge crap.

    As to progress, it actually IS true that nobody's arguing that progress has not been made. Rather, it's not as much as you'd like everyone to believe, there's a whole load of it left to achieve and WE ARE MOVING BACKWARDS because the election of a black man as POTUS, particularly in light of him capturing a vast majority of the minority vote AND the impending demographic changes to the country everyone is aware of, was like throwing a rock at the wasp nest, pun intended.

    April 11, 2014 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  25. Rudy NYC


    Who can possibly function and walk around without an ID these days?! Even if you don't have one, there are many easy ways to get one. Claiming this is suppressing the vote of ANYBODY is pure made up rubbish by the Democrats
    I guess you missed that video cilp of the head of the Pennsylvania GOP addresssing a crowd celebrating the political achievements that had been completed. "Voter ID. DONE, which help will guarantee a victory for Mitt Romney in PA."

    But, it goes far beyond the Voter ID laws. It is the reduction of voting hours, the closing and moving of polling locations. It is the capricious removing of names from the voter rolls without verifying or notifying anyone or anybody. It is states not budgeting enough resources for people to even get the IDs. Now, the latest growing trend seem to be poll watchers to intimidate people.

    Someone asked how can people live without ID. That's the wrong question. You should ask how people can live without a state issued photo ID. Actually, they can do it quite easily. For example, people in nursing homes do not need state issued, photo identification cards. For example, many college students get along quite well with a college ID.

    April 11, 2014 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
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