Obama Pens First Op-Ed Since Leaving The WH Over Voting Rights

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In 1965, a 25-year-old John Lewis, a civil rights activist who helped lead the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, nearly lost his life in Alabama while marching for the right of black Americans to vote. Honoring his legacy means furthering his aims and ensuring that everyone has access to the ballot.

President Barack Obama, the country’s first black president, was the result of many years of civil rights activism, activists who fought for his right to vote and to run for office. In his first op-ed since leaving the White House, Obama wrote in USA Today that voting rights should be our most important concern today.

‘When I spoke at John Lewis’ memorial service two years ago, I emphasized a truth John knew better than just about anyone. Our democracy isn’t a given. It isn’t self-executing. We, as citizens, have to nurture and tend it. We have to work at it. And in that task, we have to vigilantly preserve and protect our most basic tool of self-government, which is the right to vote.

‘At the time, various state legislators across the country had already passed a variety of laws designed to make voting harder. It was an attack on everything John Lewis fought for, and a challenge to our most fundamental democratic freedoms.

‘Since then, things have only gotten worse.’

Voter suppression bills have passed in red states, particularly those who went blue or came too close for GOP comfort in 2020, states like Georgia and Texas. While no one is trying to take away the right to vote, which is enshrined in the Constitution, their tactics are more subtle. Instead of taking away that right, the GOP is simply passing laws making it harder and harder for voters to access a voting booth, particularly in communities with high concentrations of black and brown voters.

‘What we’re seeing now are far more aggressive and precise efforts on the part of Republican state legislatures to tilt the playing field in their favor. In states that have approved new congressional maps, there are now 15 fewer competitive districts than there were before. Fewer competitive districts increases partisanship, since candidates who only have to appeal to primary voters have no incentive to compromise or move to the center.’

While states have been allowed to run their own elections for decades, certain rights are protected federally. Just as conservative states had to be forced to stop blocking black voters from casting a ballot in the 1960s, the federal government must pass legislation to protect those same voters now.

‘Finally and perhaps most perniciously, we’ve seen state legislatures try to assert power over core election processes including the ability to certify election results. These partisan attempts at voter nullification are unlike anything we’ve seen in modern times, and they represent a profound threat to the basic democratic principle that all votes should be counted fairly and objectively.’