President Barack Obama downplayed accusations of voter fraud by legislators who have introduced bills that have threatened to turn back decades-old gains for African American and other voters and that he said must stay in place.
“The right to vote is threatened today in a way that it has not been since the Voting Rights Act was passed in to law nearly five decades ago,” Obama said addressing an audience at the National Action Network (NAN) Convention in New York on Friday. “The real voter fraud is people trying to deny our rights by making voting harder in the first place.”
NewsOne At President Obama’s Address
The President said those fighting voter fraud are hard pressed to actually find much voter fraud, citing studies that found only 40 people out of 97 million were actually indicted for fraud in the last election. He even pointed out that Republican political agendas were behind much of the effort to thwart voters, “There are a lot of things we can argue about, but the right to vote…I mean, what kind of political platform is that?”
Obama gave his remarks a day after marking the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act in Austin at the LBJ Presidential Library, where he commemorated President Lyndon Johnson‘s signing of the historic bill into law. But addressing the crowd at the NAN convention, Obama stressed the easiest and most-powerful thing voters can do when threatened, “The single most important thing we can do to protect our right to vote, is vote,” he said.
Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League, said after the speech that Obama made it clear what was happening among voting rights opponents. “It’s a call to move on efforts to resist those who would take away our vote,” he said. “There are a lot of people who would takeaway that right.”
Audience Reactions To The President’s Address
Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a significant component of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, allowing nine states to change their voting rules without federal permission. Since that time, voting rights activists have been trying to soften the effect of that decision.
Barbara Arnwine, president and executive director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, was in Austin for Obama’s speech and in New York where the President acknowledged her. She said although she remains nonpartisan “there’s no doubt who has been moving these barriers. “It is sadly true that the majority has come from the Republican Party. But the President said we have to educate, mobilize, and organize.”
Editor’s note: A previous version misstated the year of the Voting Rights Act.