President Obama, on the 50th anniversary of Voting Rights Act, renewed a call for new, broader legislation and urged people to exercise their hard-won voting rights instead of staying home on election days. Obama said that in the half-century since President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act it has become impossible to hear anyone defend the idea of discrimination against certain voters. “That’s huge progress,” he said, “a normative shift in how we think about our democracy.” But he said that initiatives in state legislatures to require drivers licenses and other forms of photo identification and to make it harder to vote early were having the same discriminating effect. He said no matter how reasonable such rules may sound, they all discriminated against the poor, elderly and working-class voters who often work odd shifts or travel by bus or are single parents. Voting rights activists say that 15 states with 162 electoral votes will have new voting restrictions in 2016.
“So, in theory everybody is in favor of the right to vote,” Obama said. “In practice, we have state legislatures that are deliberately trying to make it harder for people to vote.” In response, Obama said, Congress should pass an updated Voting Rights Act that would address these new efforts that impede voting rights.
In response, Obama said, Congress should pass an updated Voting Rights Act that would address these new efforts that impede voting rights.