From: Rebecca Nelson [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Thursday, August 06, 2015 03:31 PM
To: Velz, Peter T. EOP
Subject: In-town pool report #2 -- Voting Rights Act event
Pool was unexpectedly ushered into South Court Auditorium at about 2:25 for an event commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act. As a White House official later explained, the event was supposed to be livecast from the Roosevelt Room to the audience gathered there, but at the last minute the president decided to give his remarks straight from South Court.
The president was introduced by Rep. John Lewis, famed civil rights activist, and at 2:27, began his remarks to a packed crowd. Lewis and AG Loretta Lynch sat on stage as the president spoke. Valerie Jarrett leaned against the wall watching.
Speaking for just under 20 minutes, he acknowledged that "in the abstract, at least, everybody believes in the right to vote." (Please check quotes against transcript)
"In practice, we've still got problems," he said, noting that "state legislatures have instituted procedures and practices that although on the surface may appear neutral, have the effect of discouraging people from voting."
If those practices are allowed to go unanswered, "then over time, the hard won battles of 50 years ago erode. And our democracy erodes."
He also called for Congress to pass an updated version of the Voting Rights Act "that would correct some of the problems that have arisen."
Addressing the debate around voter fraud, he said there almost no instances of people going to vote in somebody else's name. "It turns out it's just not a common crime...almost nobody wakes up and says 'I'm gonna go vote in somebody else's name,'" he said, to murmurs of support and applause.
He also rebuked the American public for disenfranchising themselves by failing to exercise their right to vote. "Far more people disenfranchise themselves than any law does by not participating," he said. "Huge chunks of us, citizens, just give away our power. We would rather complain than do something about it."
In closing, he announced that he'd proclaimed Sept. 22 National Voter Registration Day, and that groups would fan out across the country to try to get everybody to register to vote.
He finished speaking at 2:45 p.m.
On background from a White House official, on the crowd to which Obama delivered his remarks:
Civil rights leaders, faith leaders, voting rights activists, state and local officials are attending a session hosted by the White House Office of Public Engagement on strengthening and protecting the right to vote. The event includes an armchair conversation with Congressman Lewis and MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry along with panels featuring those who have done work to on the issue of voting rights.
White House correspondent, National Journal