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LWV Commends President Obama’s Attention to Our Issues in SOTU Address, But Hoped for More Action on Voting Rights

In last night’s State of the Union (SOTU) address, President Obama addressed many crucial issues affecting our country. His remarks touched on some of the League’s priority issues including voting rights, climate change, immigration and gun violence.

The League is delighted that the President emphasized the urgent need to address environmental concerns, asserting that for “for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change.” Climate change is an issue that becomes more and more serious each day. We recently ran newspaper ads and wrote to President Obama on climate change, calling on him to set standards for new and existing power plants under the Clean Air Act and make the world a safer place for our children. When it comes to our environment and the health of future generations, the time to act is now, and we were heartened to hear the President promise to use his executive power to take action if Congress does not move quickly to address this incredible problem. Join the League and take action today by calling on the President, to take the historically necessary step of controlling industrial carbon pollution from new and existing power plants.

We echo the President that our economy is “stronger when we harness the talents and ingenuity of striving, hopeful immigrants,” and that we must pass immigration reform policies to strengthen our country. Like the President’ the League believes that the essential element in “real” immigration reform is establishing a responsible pathway to earned citizenship, through such steps as steps as paying taxes and learning English.

Reinforcing statements made at a recent press conference on gun safety, the President referred to Newtown, Hadiya Pendleton, and the families of Oak Creek, Tucson, and Blacksburg, in calling for comprehensive gun control legislation to “protect our most precious resource, our children.” The President stressed the need for common sense solutions to gun violence, including preventing the resale of guns to criminals, enforcing background checks and placing limits on high-capacity magazines.

The League has a long-standing position on gun control, and we feel strongly that it is a matter of public safety and public health that needs immediate attention. Hours before the SOTU, we called upon Congress to adopt legislation to close the gun show loophole, ban assault weapons, limit ammunition magazine size, increase penalties for straw purchases, and fund research on gun violence in America. We agree wholeheartedly with the President that victims of gun violence, many of whom were present in the chamber during the President’s speech, “deserve a vote,” and we hope Congress heeds his call by voting on his proposals.

We were disappointed by the President’s response to improving the nation’s elections. Given his recent statements calling for reform, we anticipated bold action and real solutions –such as those found in our four-point plan to make elections free, fair, and accessible for all eligible citizens.

 Last night Desiline Victor, a 102-year-old Florida woman who waited three hours to cast her ballot last November, attended the SOTU, and in the next couple of weeks, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a case challenging the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  What better time for the President to call for concrete solutions to improve our elections? Rather than kick the can down the road by appointing a commission, which may take years to offer their solutions, the President would have served voters better by calling for secure online voter registration, portable voter registration and expanded early voting.

Every four years voters complain of long lines and every four years, nothing happens. This year will be no exception despite the fact that there are a number of efforts that the President could undertake immediately to protect voting rights, such as ordering the Department of Justice to fully enforce the existing election laws. We expected action to protect Americans from the risk of disenfranchisement, but we fear that all we got was lip service.