Michelle Obama used a speech to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation on Saturday night to urge delegates to register voters and encourage African Americans to turn out in November’s election.
Speaking in Washington at the foundation’s annual Phoenix dinner, the first lady likened turning out the vote to the civil rights struggles of previous eras.
“Make no mistake about it, this is the march of our time,” Obama told the audience at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. “Marching door-to-door registering people to vote, marching everyone you know to the polls every single election.” That effort, she said, “is the movement of our era — protecting that fundamental right, not just for this election but for the next generation and generations to come.”
Obama did not refer explicitly to voter-ID laws that that have been passed or proposed in states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida, but she warned against being dissuaded from voting.
“We cannot let anyone discourage us from casting our ballots,” she 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. That means making sure our laws preserve that right.”
Republicans have backed voter ID laws, which often require photo identification, arguing that they help prevent ballot fraud. Democrats and voter advocates say the measures could be used to keep some poor and minority voters away from the polls because it can be more burdensome for them to get the required IDs. Opponents have mounted several legal challenges to the laws.
This year’s dinner issued honors to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.; film director George Lucas; Harvey Gantt, the first African American mayor of Charlotte; and Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.).
Earlier at the convention center, issues of faith dominated the final day of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s annual legislative conference.
Faith leaders discussed one of the most controversial issues facing them in the black community: President Obama’s public support for same-sex marriage.