Obama Arrives To Backup Stacy Abrams Fighting Voter Suppression

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As Republicans around the country continue to propose and in some cases implement suppressive new voting restrictions, former President Barack Obama has shared some of his thoughts on the matter in a new interview with a publication called The 19th. Obama called for action including a strengthening of the Voting Rights Act, which the U.S. Supreme Court undercut with a 2013 decision undoing a provision from the legislation that required so-called preclearance from the Justice Department before implementing certain changes to the conducting of elections. The idea of that requirement was to stop the implementation of suppressive new election restrictions before they were enforced.

Referring to the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder case in which the Supreme Court issued that controversial decision, Obama commented in part as follows:

‘As soon as Shelby was decided, we knew what was coming. That’s because we understood how important the Voting Rights Act was in terms of protecting access to the ballot box, especially the preclearance provisions that the Supreme Court had gutted… we need to not only revitalize the Voting Rights Act, but to make it even better — by making sure every American is automatically registered to vote; by adding polling places, expanding early voting and ending partisan gerrymandering; by guaranteeing that every American citizen has equal representation in our government, including the American citizens who live in Washington, D.C., and in Puerto Rico, and the formerly incarcerated. And that’s only the beginning.’

Automatic voter registration, new polling places, and expansions of early voting opportunities would all help push back against the Republican efforts that, in reality, suppress voters. Republicans who have put forward election restrictions in recent months have often cast their proposals in the guise of protecting election security — but no systematic election integrity problems with the conducting of last year’s election have been discovered, so they’re responding to a problem that does not exist and making it punitively more difficult to vote in the process.

Referring to legislation including the John Lewis Voting Rights Act — which would restore that preclearance requirement — and the For the People Act, Obama also noted that there “are bills Congress could pass which would begin to restore our democracy,” insisting that it’s “time to pass those bills so President Biden can sign them into law.” Both pieces of legislation are currently threatened by the filibuster — in the 100-member Senate, filibuster rules demand the agreement of 60 Senators (which, in practice, generally includes members of both major parties) before moving forward, including to a final vote, on most legislation.