Speaking in Washington at the foundationâ€™s annual Phoenix dinner, the first lady likened turning out the vote to the civil rights struggles of previous eras.
â€œMake no mistake about it, this is the march of our time,â€ Obama told the audience at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. â€œMarching door-to-door registering people to vote, marching everyone you know to the polls every single election.â€ That effort, she said, â€œis the movement of our era: protecting that fundamental right, not just for this election, but for the next generation and generations to come.â€
Obama did not refer explicitly to the 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.
â€œWe cannot let anyone discourage us from casting our ballots,â€ she said. â€œWe 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.â€
Republicans have backed the voter ID laws, which often require photo identification, arguing that they help prevent ballot fraud. Democrats and voter advocates, however, 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 severalÂ legal challenges to the laws.
This yearâ€™s dinner issued honors to U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder; film director George Lucas; Harvey Gantt, the first African American mayor of Charlotte, N.C.; and Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.)