NEW YORK -- President Barack Obama declared Friday that he will not allow attacks on the Voting Rights Act to go unchallenged and argued that there should be no argument about the right to vote among political leaders.
In an address at the National Action Network's convention at the Sheraton Times Square Hotel in New York City, President Obama highlighted efforts across America seeking to disenfranchise voters of their right to vote and said he will not allow them to go "unchallenged".
Taking the opportunity to remind the audience of what the right to vote means for many Americans he touched on the issue of its power to address inequality.
"In the eyes of the law and in the eyes of our democracy, we're all supposed to have that equal right to cast our ballot to determine the direction of our society," said President Obama.
"The principle of one person one vote is the single greatest tool we have to redress an unjust status quo. You would think there would not be an argument about this anymore. But 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," he noted.
"Across the country, Republicans have led efforts to pass laws making it harder, not easier for people to vote. In some places, women can be turned away from the polls just because they are registered under their maiden name but their driver's license has their married name," said Obama.
"Senior citizens who've been voting for decades may suddenly be told they can no longer vote until they can come up with the right ID...," he continued.
He highlighted that since 2009, the Department of Justice had taken on more than 100 voting rights cases involving African-Americans, Spanish-speakers and even soldiers serving overseas.
While he intends to resist efforts aimed at disenfranchising voters however, Obama said he is open to reasonable efforts to ensure the security of the ballot.
"I want to be clear. I am not against reasonable attempts to secure the ballot. We understand that there has to be rules in place. But I am against requiring an ID that millions of Americans don't have," said the president.
"As President I'm not going to let attacks on these rights go unchallenged," he noted.
Recent arguments seeking to address voter fraud, he said, are not supported by evidence-based data.
"One recent study found only 10 cases of alleged in-person voter impersonation in 12 years. Another analysis found that out of 197 million votes cast for federal elections from 2002 to 2005 only 40 voters out of 197 million were indicted for fraud," he said to a laughing audience.
"Now for those of you who are math majors… the percentage is 0.00002 percent. That's not a lot. So let's be clear, the real voter fraud is people who try to deny our rights by making bogus arguments," he said.
Nevertheless, he explained, earlier this year he commissioned a bipartisan commission to come up with a series of common sense reforms to modernize voter registration and urged local election boards to take up the recommendations made by the commission.
"We should not be having an argument about this. There are a lot of things we should be arguing about but the right to vote? Now what kind of political platform is that? Why would you make that a part of your agenda? Preventing people from voting, how you can defend that?" asked Obama.
"There are a whole bunch of folks out there who don't vote for me. Didn't vote for me, don't like what I do. The idea that I would prevent them from voting and exercising their franchise makes no sense," he noted.