Obama: Apathy, not Voter ID, keeps minorities from polls

Controversial voter identification laws are not the primary reason minority voters are failing to cast their ballots, President Obama said in a radio interview airing Tuesday.

"Most of these laws are not preventing the overwhelming majority of folks who don't vote from voting," Obama said during an interview with Rev. Al Sharpton. "Most people do have an ID. Most people do have a driver's license. Most people can get to the polls. It may not be as convenient' it may be a little more difficult."

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The Justice Department has challenged new voter identification laws in Texas and North Carolina. Those pieces of legislation passed shortly after the Supreme Court struck down central provisions of the Voting Rights Act, which had required preapproval of state voting law changes by the federal government. 

The administration has argued that the laws are politically motivated and intended to prevent poor and minority voters, who tend to vote Democratic, from casting their ballots. Under this theory, those voters are less likely to have identification, and the costs associated with getting such a card are likely to hurt them more than more affluent sections of the public. Republicans have said the efforts are intended to prevent voter fraud.

Over the weekend, the Supreme Court decided to uphold Texas's new voter ID law. Attorney General Eric HolderEric H. HolderRacial undercurrents inflame Uber fight over background checks Chaffetz seeks to hold Obama official in contempt over water rule Eric Holder goes to bat for Uber MORE has said the government will also challenge new voting laws in Ohio and Wisconsin.

But according to Obama, apathy is the prime factor that mutes minority voices.

"The bottom line is, if less than half of our folks vote, these laws aren't preventing the other half from not voting," Obama said. "The reason we don't vote is because people have been fed this notion that somehow it's not going to make a difference. And it makes a huge difference."

The president added that, if Democrats have high turnout from their base, they could prevail in toss-up states crucial to holding Senate control.

"If we have high turnout in North Carolina then we will win. If we have high turnout in Georgia, we will win. If we have high turnout in Colorado, we will win. So, across the board, it is important for us to take responsibility and not give away our power," Obama said.