Former first lady Michelle Obama lambasted a Republican crusade to make it harder to vote as “unpatriotic” and an attack on democracy in a blistering statement Thursday.
Her comments come amid a nationwide effort by the GOP to limit who can vote and how after a record turnout among voters of color in the 2020 election that saw President Joe Biden elevated to the White House. Obama co-founded the group When We All Vote, a nonprofit aimed at increasing election participation, particularly among young voters and voters of color.
“Unfortunately too many leaders are working to reverse that progress and make it harder for people with every right to vote to cast a ballot,” Obama said in a statement through the group on Thursday. “Our democracy remains under attack by the partisan and unpatriotic actions of those at the state level who are doing everything they can to curtail access to the ballot box.”
Republican lawmakers have unveiled more than 250 measures across the country, many of which will make it harder to vote or will alter the Electoral College to the party’s benefit. A large number of those measures have appeared in swing states that helped determine the results of the 2020 race. And they’re already beginning to make headway.
On Thursday, the Georgia House of Representatives approved a sweeping election overhaul bill that would mandate new voter ID requirements and limit weekend voting. The GOP has pointed to nonexistent voter fraud to back up the measure, but critics argue it’s merely a thinly veiled attempt to target “souls to the polls” drives, in which largely Black communities encourage voters to cast ballots after church on Sundays.
Republican leadership has largely refused to disavow ongoing conspiracy theories peddled by former President Donald Trump that the election — in which he lost to Biden by more than 7 million votes — was stolen from him. There is no evidence to back up those claims, and intelligence agencies and top government officials have thrown cold water on the notion, calling it patently false.
The Supreme Court this week also heard a major case that could determine the future of a powerful provision of the landmark Voting Rights Act. The court — which now has a 6-3 conservative majority — indicated it could issue a ruling later this summer in favor of Republican provisions that toughened voting laws in Arizona. By doing so, the court could eviscerate the main legal method used by voting rights advocates to fight discriminatory laws.
Obama on Thursday urged lawmakers to pass the For the People Act, a landmark voting rights bill that passed in the House on Wednesday along party lines. The law would be the most significant voting rights legislation in more than half a century and would weaken voter ID laws, automate voter registration and make it harder for lawmakers to purge voter rolls.
“Make no mistake — the idea that we cannot both hold secure elections and ensure that every eligible voter can make their voices heard is a false choice,” she continued. “It’s based on lies, and it flies in the face of our history. It is sad. It is infuriating. And it is a genuine threat to our future that must be taken seriously.”
She added: “There is nothing more important to the health and future of our democracy than safeguarding the right to vote.”