First on CNN: Martin O’Malley to call for a voting rights constitutional amendment

01:17 - Source: CNN
O'Malley apologizes for offense
Washington CNN —  

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley will call for a constitutional amendment “to protect every citizen’s right to vote” at a campaign event with black leaders in South Carolina on Tuesday, campaign aides tell CNN.

O’Malley, a Democratic candidate for president, will mark the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act by arguing at a 20/20 Leaders of America meeting that the only way to protect voting rights against Republican efforts to “suppress the vote” is to guarantee the right with a constitutional amendment.

After the event, O’Malley will send an email to his supporters asking them to stand behind his amendment push.

“Last year, Republican state legislators in 29 states introduced more than 80 restrictive bills to require a photo ID, make voter registration harder, or reduce early voting,” O’Malley writes in the email provided to CNN. “We know why they’re doing this: because Americans without a photo ID are disproportionately low-income, disabled, minority — and Democratic.”

O’Malley asks his supporters to “protect every citizen’s right to vote, once and for all” by supporting his proposed amendment.

Democrats have expressed outrage over what they see is changing tide of voting rights has shifted in the United States. The Supreme Court also ruled in 2013 that a key aspect of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Voting Rights Act of 1965 is no longer constitutional. And Republican legislatures states like North Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin and Florida have moved to cut down on early voting times and tightened voter identification rules.

Democrats, like O’Malley, argue that the laws are partisan and look to disenfranchise Democrats. But Republicans say they are only trying to clean up the voting process and reduce fraud.

Hillary Clinton, the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, told an audience at the historically black Texas Southern University in June that she supports the concept of signing every American up to vote as soon as they’re eligible at age 18, unless they specifically opt out. She also called for expanded access to polling places, keeping them open for at least 20 days and offering voting hours on evenings and weekends.

O’Malley’s call will come at an event with black elected officials and leaders from South Carolina, like Columbia’s Mayor Steve Benjamin, who has already endorsed Clinton, and Columbia Councilman Brian Newman.

O’Malley stumbled last month when he said “all lives matter” after being confronted by Black Lives Matter protesters at a liberal gathering in Phoenix. Since that event, however, the governor has stepped up his focus on race and policing, two areas in which Black Lives Matter protesters are eager to hear solutions.

The former governor unveiled his proposals for overhauling the nation’s criminal justice system Friday, vowing to reform police departments, abolish the death penalty and address overcrowding in prisons.

Tuesday’s trip marks the first campaign appearance O’Malley has made in South Carolina since announcing his presidential bid in May.