Former President Barrack Obama suggested Friday that efforts by Republican legislatures to change voting laws amount to “rigging” the system.
During a virtual discussion at the Economic Club of Chicago, Obama said Republicans have embraced “patently false” claims that the 2020 election was stolen, and excoriated them for instituting “voter suppression methods” through state legislatures.
“That’s the kind of dangerous behavior we are going to have to push back on,” Obama said.
“This really has to do with the basic rules well all have agreed to, to keep this diverse, multiracial democracy functioning. Are we going to stick to those rules or are we gonna start rigging the game in a way that breaks it? And that’s not going to be good for business, not to mention for our soul.”
Obama singled out Georgia’s new voting law in particular, which has faced corporate backlash.
The Democrat told the respected civic and political organization, in his strongest comments to date, that there is a responsibility to push back against these voting laws, and corporations, in particular, have an obligation to stand up.
“I think the corporate community has a responsibility to at least call folks out on that, because this transcends policy,” he said.
Across the country, scores of Republican-controlled state legislatures have passed a number of voting restrictions since losing the 2020 presidential contest and failing to gain a majority in the House and Senate. Various GOP state lawmakers have enacted or drafted measures that create new election powers, change election administration and punish state election officials, such as secretaries of state, who don’t perform their duties as set out in the new laws.
In Georgia, the bill that was signed into law in March removes the secretary of state from the State Elections Board and replaces that position with a Legislature-appointed chairperson. It also gives the State Elections Board the power to suspend county or municipal election workers. The new law also adds a host of restrictions, such as requiring identification for mail voting and making it illegal to take food or water to voters in line.
States such as Texas, Arkansas, and Arizona, which is conducting a GOP-led controversial audit, have also passed or proposed new voting laws. And in several states, pending or passed legislation would also levy hefty fines — or even criminal penalties — on elections officials for failing to follow the law to the letter.
Obama has become increasingly vocal about protecting voting rights and recently signed an open letter calling on Congress to pass the For The People Act, a sweeping voting bill that passed the House in March. He’s also involved with the Michelle Obama-backed voter registration group When We All Vote.
Obama also talked to the venerable organization about the opening of his presidential library, which is slated to begin construction this fall. The $500 million sprawling complex will be located in Chicago’s Jackson Park, and is expected to attract 750,000 visitors a year, Obama said.