President Obama spoke at a conference for Al Sharpton's National Action Network where he did not hold back his feelings concerning the attack on voting rights in our country.
"Inequality feeds on injustice," the President said. "Opportunity requires justice, and justice requires the right to vote."
He went on to say that access to voting is not a Democrat or Republican issue. It's an issue we should all care about regardless of our individual political views. "I think all people, regardless of your party affiliation should agree that if your strategy depends on having fewer people show up to vote, that's not a sign of strength. It's a sign of weakness...It's ultimately bad politics," he said.
Our President is behind us in fighting against laws that are designed to discourage people from voting. His message to us is, "We can't use these barriers as an excuse not to participate. We can't use cynicism as an excuse not to participate."
President Obama recognizes that making sure votes are legitimate is important. He also understands that there are ways to accomplish this without making it more difficult for people to vote or discouraging them from showing up. All of these voting restrictions are going to cost money. We could and should be investing in expanding people's access to voting instead.
Recent changes to our voting law in NC eliminated the ability of 16 and 17 year olds to pre-register to vote. This, I believe, is strong evidence of the true goal of those who voted for and signed this law. There was no evidence of any ballots being cast by anyone under 18. The information on the pending registration forms was not available to the general public. The program was virtually cost free. Most importantly, pre-registration was working to increase the number of registered voters who were among the demographic that had the lowest registration and turnout rate in our state. In the two short years pre-registration was available, over 160,000 teenagers took advantage of it. Those teenagers who pre-registered represented Democrats, Republicans, and Independents very evenly.
The evidence that laws like those passed here in North Carolina have less to do with making our system of voting more secure and a lot to do with making it more difficult for some people to vote is very clear. There is no reason to remove opportunities for increased registration and increased voter turnout that have no evidence of producing fraudulent votes. There is no reason we should not be investing in programs and technology that expand access to the ballot.
It feels good to know that my President stands behind all of us who are working to reverse what some people have done in order to gain more power for themselves without having to worry about the welfare and desires of regular citizens. I appreciate President Obama bringing this issues before the country in order to inform and inspire more people to take action.
The right to vote is one of the most important rights we have. As we move further into the new century, we should be looking for every opportunity to expand access to the polls. We should be an example to the rest of the world of freedom, not oppression.
My President has stood up to preserve one of the most important things necessary to securing a better future for my generation, the power of one voice and one vote. I promise to honor my country by always appreciating the right to vote and always standing up for that right for everyone, regardless of whether or not they share my own political leanings. How many of the candidates running this November will take this same pledge?