Obama: Waiting in Long Lines to Vote 'Not Acceptable' in USA

December 6, 2013 - 12:01 PM

voting

Voters wait to cast ballots in Hialeah, Fla. in November 2012. (AP File Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - President Obama agreed with "Hardball" host Chris Matthews on Thursday that Republicans are trying to deny people the right to vote, and he specifically mentioned long lines at polling places as a problem.

But he also suggested that voter apathy is a bigger problem than voter suppression.

"Everybody knows the game," Matthews told the president. "Republicans often admit the game -- to deny people the vote."

"Right," Obama said. "You saw the lines that we had not only in '08, but then in '12...And I said on election night, that's not acceptable in a democracy that has been around as long as ours and that the world looks to."

Obama said he's asked election lawyers to "sit down with a group of experts"  to come up with "a whole series of voter reforms."

"They're supposed to report back to me by the end of this year, so that early next year, we're going to put forward what we know will be a bipartisan effort -- or a bipartisan proposal -- to encourage people to vote.

"You can't say you take pride in American democracy, in American constitutionalism, American exceptionalism and then you're doing everything you can to make it harder for people to vote, as opposed to easier for people to vote. So, I think there's some commonsense things that we can do. And I won't preview the proposals, because I haven't gotten them yet."

Obama said his Justice Department will continue to monitor voter-suppression complaints, and it will sue if it uncovers evidence of discrimination against certain groups of voters.

"The one point I want to make, though, is, is that, even with all the efforts that were made, let's say, in the last election, folks still voted. And if -- if people feel engaged enough and have a sense of a stake in our democracy, you know, you will be able to vote.

"And, you know, our -- our biggest problem right now is not the misguided efforts of some of these state legislators. Our bigger problem is the one that you alluded to earlier, which is people's skepticism that government, in fact, can make a difference.

"And even in the best of years these days, we still have about 40 percent of the population who is eligible to vote that chooses to opt out. And they're -- they're not being turned away at the polls. They're turning themselves away from the polls. And -- and that's something that we have got to -- we have got to get at.

He said it's important for young people, particularly, to vote in midterm elections as much as they do in presidential elections. Obama was interviewed by Matthews before an audience of young people at American University in Washington.