Obama: Voting rights under attack

President Barack Obama addresses the National Action Networks 16th Annual Convention, April 11, 2014, in New York, N.Y.
President Barack Obama addresses the National Action Networks 16th Annual Convention, April 11, 2014, in New York, N.Y.

The right to vote is under threat —  more now than any other point since the Voting Rights Act became law in 1965, President Obama announced Friday.

"The stark and simple truth is this — the right to vote is threatened today — in a way that it has not been since the Voting Rights Act became law nearly five decades ago," Obama said to the crowd at the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network conference.

In a rousing, election-year speech that played to the base, Obama warned of efforts to suppress the vote in the wake of a Supreme Court decision last year that dismantled a key pillar of the landmark Voting Rights Act.

The president condemned the recent surge in changes to voting laws and the Republicans leading the charge to curb access. Calling out voter ID measures, cuts to early and weekend voting, and restrictive laws on the books across the country, President Obama said the architects behind the changes are no longer operating under the pretext of battling voter fraud — it's all partisan. 

“So let’s be clear — the real voter fraud is people who try to deny our rights by making bogus arguments about voter fraud,” the president said, chiding Republicans to a roar of applause.

Obama used the civil rights forum to call out Republicans and motivate those directly affected by voter suppression — minorities and students who tend to vote Democratic. Looking ahead to the midterm elections in November — where Democrats face an uphill battle in Congress — the president pressed voters to find any way possible to make it to the ballot box and combat the rise of restrictive laws.

A day earlier, Obama marked the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act in a speech before a summit at the Johnson Presidential Library, where he tipped his hat to his predecessor's legacy in the fight to extend rights for Americans.

"America did not stand up and did not march and did not sacrifice to gain the right to vote for themselves and for others only to see it denied to their kids and their grandchildren," Obama said. "We've got to pay attention to this." 

The administration is fighting back against conservative efforts to restrict voting rights across the country. In his acceptance speech on election night, President Obama vowed to fix the voting system after some voters waited eight hours or more to cast a 2012 ballot. He later appointed a presidential panel to explore ways to iron out the process and cut down voting line wait times.

“We’re not going to let voter suppression go unchallenged,” the president said Friday.