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First lady: Voting rights is ‘movement of our era’

First lady Michelle Obama addresses the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's 42nd Annual Phoenix Awards dinner in Washington, Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012. /AP Photo/Cliff Owen

WASHINGTON — Michelle Obama says protecting the right to vote has become the nation’s most important civil rights issue.

The first lady tells a gathering of Black lawmakers and leaders that they owe it to those who fought and died for equal rights in the 1960s to make sure every voter can freely cast a ballot.

Her comments at an annual awards banquet for the Congressional Black Caucus come amid a push in more than a dozen states to pass laws requiring voters to show ID at the polls. Critics say the laws unfairly harm minorities, poor people and college students — all groups that tend to vote Democratic.

Comparing it to the civil rights movement, Obama calls voting rights “the march or our time” and “the sit in of our day.”

— Associated Press