President Barack Obama tore into state voter ID laws Friday when speaking to the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, accusing Republicans of trying to block minorities, women and seniors from voting and calling the laws a fraud.
“We don’t want folks voting that shouldn’t be voting,” Obama told the gathering in New York. “Let’s stipulate to that as the lawyers say, but there is a reason why those who argue that harsh restrictions on voting are somehow necessary to fight voter fraud are having such a hard time proving any real widespread voter fraud.”
Obama said most studies show voter fraud is not a problem.
“The real voter fraud is those that try to deny our rights by making arguments about voter fraud. but i have to say, there have been some of these officials who have been passing these laws have been more blunt,” Obama said.
He noted that he visited the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library the day before. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act in 1965 to prevent efforts by local government to prevent blacks from voting.
“The right to vote is threatened today in a way that it has not since nearly five decades ago. Across the country, Republicans have led efforts to pass laws making it harder, not easier, for people to vote,” Obama said. He went on to say, “We won’t let voter suppression go unchallenged.”
Obama’s Justice Department under Attorney General Eric Holder sued both Texas and North Carolina last year for adopting voter ID laws. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of voter ID laws in a 6-3 vote in 2008.
Since the high court’s ruling, a total of 34 states have enacted some type of voter ID law, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, though not all are photo ID, for the purpose of preventing potential voter fraud.
Obama went on to say who is the target of his perceived attack on the right to vote – it included key voting blocks.
“In some places women could be turned away from the poll just because they’re registered under their maiden name but their driver’s license has their married name,” Obama said. “Senior citizens are told they cannot vote unless they come up with the right ID.”
Obama was speaking to a group run by Sharpton, known for using divisive rhetoric. Just this week, reports surfaced the Sharpton worked as an FBI informant against the mob in New York.
The host of MSNBC’s Politics Nation is a long time activist in New York, and first became a national figure for falsely accusing a state prosecutor of rape in the Tawana Brawley hoax, for which he lost a defamation suit in the late 1980s. He was also criticized for the Crown Heights riots in 1991 that took on an anti-Jewish tone. In 2004, Sharpton ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic presidential nomination.