President Barack Obama excoriated voter ID laws in his remarks in Selma Saturday, saying the laws make it “harder” for people to cast a ballot — in contrast to what the president said about the laws just a few months ago.
“Right now, in 2015, fifty years after Selma, there are laws across this country designed to make it harder for people to vote. As we speak, more of such laws are being proposed. Meanwhile, the Voting Rights Act, the culmination of so much blood and sweat and tears, the product of so much sacrifice in the face of wanton violence, stands weakened, its future subject to partisan rancor,” he said to the audience gathered for the 50th anniversary celebration of the Selma march.
He added, “How can that be? The Voting Rights Act was one of the crowning achievements of our democracy, the result of Republican and Democratic effort. President Reagan signed its renewal when he was in office. President Bush signed its renewal when he was in office. One hundred Members of Congress have come here today to honor people who were willing to die for the right it protects. If we want to honor this day, let these hundred go back to Washington, and gather four hundred more, and together, pledge to make it their mission to restore the law this year.”
Former President George W. Bush, whose party and former appointees fought tooth and nail against the administration’s lawsuits to dismantle Voter ID laws in different states, sat with his wife Laura on stage as Obama delivered his speech.
Back in October, however, Obama told Reverend Al Sharpton he did not think Voter ID laws kept people from voting.
“Of course, our democracy is not the task of Congress alone, or the courts alone, or the President alone. If every new voter suppression law was struck down today, we’d still have one of the lowest voting rates among free peoples. Fifty years ago, registering to vote here in Selma and much of the South meant guessing the number of jellybeans in a jar or bubbles on a bar of soap,” Obama said then. “It meant risking your dignity, and sometimes, your life. What is our excuse today for not voting? How do we so casually discard the right for which so many fought? How do we so fully give away our power, our voice, in shaping America’s future?”
He explained, “Keep in mind most of these laws are not preventing the the overwelimgly majority of folks who don’t vote from voting. Most people do have ID. Most people do have a drivers license. Most people can get to the polls. But the bottom line is, if less then half of our folks vote, these laws aren’t preventing the other half from not voting.”