President Barack Obama touted “mandatory voting” and criticized laws at the federal and state level that he said are “unabashedly” intended to keep people from voting – which he said have roots to the earliest days of the United States.
“We really are the only advanced democracy on earth that systematically and purposefully makes it really hard for people to vote,” Obama said Thursday when speaking at the University of Chicago School of Law. “There is no other country on earth that does that. There is a legacy to that that grows directly out of a history in which first propertied men, then white men, then white folks didn’t want women, minorities, to participate in the political process and be able to empower themselves in that fashion. That’s the history. We should be a society in which at this point we should say, yeah, that history is not so good.”
The president went on to say, “That can’t be right. There is no justification for that. You can’t defend it.”
Obama returned to the the law school where he once taught constitutional law, with the purpose of promoting support for his nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to serve on the Supreme Court. But he took wide ranging questions from the law students for more than an hour.
Obama said he was speaking to Congress, future presidents, governors, state legislators, and the courts. Obama floated the idea of mandatory voting once before during remarks in Cleveland, but the White House quickly clarified the president was not making a proposal.