On Saturday, Michelle Obama compared the voter ID laws that were passed to combat voter fraud to other laws in the past that had denied blacks their civil rights. She called the battle against voter ID laws the “march of our times” and the “sit-in” of our day at a speech to the Congressional Black Caucus Federation.
Mrs. Obama said the fight against voter ID laws was the civil rights “movement of our era” and black voters had to make sure “our laws preserve” the right to vote, which meant “monitoring the polls to ensure that every eligible voter can exercise that right.”
“And make no mistake about it, this is the march of our time — marching door to door, registering people to vote,” Obama said. “Marching everyone you know to the polls every single election. See, this is the sit-in of our day — sitting in a phone bank, sitting in your living room, calling everyone you know.”
Obama was referencing the civil rights marches in the South and various “sit-ins” at “whites only” lunch counters at places like Woolworth that ultimately led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Barack Obama needs black voters to turn out for him with nearly as much enthusiasm as they did in 2008, and Michelle Obama’s comments served to motivate and mobilize black voters against voter ID laws. Her comments also were an attempt to galvanize black voters by implying that that if Republicans were to gain more power, they would take the country back to an era before civil rights laws were on the books.
“We cannot let anyone discourage us from casting our ballots,” Obama said. “We cannot let anyone make us feel unwelcome in the voting booth. It is up to us to make sure that in every election, every voice is heard and every vote is counted.”
Obama said fighting and mobilizing against voter ID laws was a way of “continuing to uphold our legacy” and it required “constant and sustained struggle and hard work.”
Obama was echoing comments heard throughout the four-day conference, where black leaders, especially women, rallied against voter ID laws and suggested voter ID laws would take blacks a pre-civil rights era.
A member of the Ohio Unity Coalition, which is an affiliate of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation,” told the Associated Press, “We are not going to give back one single inch” in fighting voter ID laws and “we have fought too long and too hard” for the right to vote.
Organizers at the conference talked about how better they could teach others to “check to see who’s been purged from voter rolls” or locate “documents that voters need to get photo identification.”
According to the AP, the women at the conference “invoked the name of abolitionist and women’s suffragist Sojourner Truth,” repeated “civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer’s famous line — ‘I am sick and tired of being sick and tired’ — as a rallying cry,” and reminded “voters of the time, before the Voting Rights Act of 1965 became law, when black people were kept from voting.”