Barack Obama Urges Citizens To Treat Voting As ‘The Most Important Action We Can Take’ On VRA Anniversary

Barack Obama speaks at the opening of the Bits & Pretzels meetup in Germany.
Hannes Magerstaedt / Getty Images

Former president Barack Obama encouraged Americans to take voting seriously on the anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, which was intended to help undo procedures that made it difficult for Black Americans to cast their ballots.

In a series of Thursday morning tweets, the 44th president referenced the fact that the Act was passed 55 years ago, on August 6, 1965, when then-President Lyndon Johnson signed it into law.

The Act came amidst the broader civil rights movement and was intended to eliminate some of the barriers some states — particularly in the South — had enacted to keep Black Americans from being able to vote. For example, the Act forbade the use of so-called “literacy tests,” which had been used to deny people the right to vote. It also eliminated poll taxes, property ownership restrictions, moral character tests, and other schemes used to disenfranchise Black people.

black voters cast their ballots
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In the first of three tweets, Obama noted the Supreme Court had significantly weakened the Act. Further, he wrote some states have recently taken new steps that appear to be aimed at disenfranchising African American voters, such as implementing voter identification requirements.

In a second tweet, Obama referenced an effort that is being undertaken in some states to make voting easier for everybody — mail-in voting — is not sitting well with the Trump administration, which has even taken Nevada to court for passing a law that would send a mail-in ballot to every voter, as reported by The Inquisitr.

“We have to treat voting as the most important action we can take on behalf of democracy. So make sure you are registered to vote. Request a mail-in ballot early and send it back early. Then get your family and friends to do it, too. Every vote counts.”

In a follow-up tweet, Obama also called on Americans to advocate for legislative changes that he also believes result in disenfranchisement, however indirectly.

“Let’s guarantee that every citizen has equal representation in our government. And end partisan gerrymandering, so that all voters have the power to choose their politicians. And if all this takes eliminating the filibuster—a Jim Crow relic––then that’s what we should do.”

Gerrymandering is a process that has been used by both Democrats and Republicans to draw up congressional districts in such a way that guarantees the side drawing them will get an advantage. The American Civil Liberties Union calls it nothing short of voter suppression.

Similarly, the filibuster is a tactic in which a bill’s passage is delayed, effectively indefinitely, by speaking about it interminably. According to Politifact, though the tactic didn’t emerge as an effort to disenfranchise voters, it was used as a tactic to delay civil rights legislation.

Obama called for an end to the practice during his eulogy for John Lewis as well.