Bill Clinton Compares Voter Laws to Racist Jim Crow

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By Stephanie Samuel, Christian Post Reporter
July 7, 2011|7:39 pm

Former President Bill Clinton likened state legislations restricting voter registrations for ex-convicts and college students to racist Jim Crow laws and accused Republicans of seeking to gain an unfair advantage at the polls.

Clinton, speaking at Campus Progress' annual conference in Washington Wednesday, urged youth to fight state voter ID laws that restrict young and minority voters from registering to vote on Election Day.

"They (Republicans) are trying to make the 2012 electorate look more like the 2010 electorate than the 2008 electorate," said Clinton.

National polls show a low number of young voters showed up at the polls during the 2010 midterm election. Only 19 percent of voters ages 18 to 29 years old voted in 2010 compared to 75 percent in 2008.

Gallup noted that the difference could be attributed to the higher level of public attention given presidential races compared to midterm elections where there are no presidential contenders on the ballot.

Clinton, however, warned that state politicians are trying to keep young, minority voters away from the ballot box in a fashion similar to Jim Crow segregation laws.

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“One of the most pervasive political movements going on outside Washington today is the disciplined, passionate, determined effort of Republican governors and legislators to keep most of you from voting next time,” Clinton told the group of youth activists.

“There has never been in my lifetime, since we got rid of the poll tax and all the other Jim Crow burdens on voting, the determined effort to limit the franchise that we see today – getting rid of same-day registration, some states getting rid of all advanced voting.”

Last month, Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman told CNN contributor Roland Martin that Republicans "want to literally drag us all the way back to Jim Crow laws."

PolitiFact conducted a historical comparison of Jim Crow laws and today's voter identification laws and determined the Jim Crow linkage to be inaccurate.

Clinton criticized Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott in his address for his efforts to overturn a law that allowed convicted felons to vote after they completed their probation. The proposed state law also requires voters to present a state-issued photo identification card.

"Why should we disenfranchise people forever once they've paid their price?" Clinton questioned. "Because most of them in Florida were African Americans and Hispanics and would tend to vote for Democrats, that's why."

Minorities, who generally tend to vote Democratic, supported President Barack Obama in 2008 at higher rates than whites. Ninety percent of non-whites voted for Obama in 2008; 99 percent of blacks also voted for Obama.

Only 45 percent of non-Hispanic white voters voted for Obama.

Clinton also claimed that a New Hampshire proposal mandating that college students register to vote in their home states rather than in the districts where they attend school is designed to limit the youth vote.

Young voters under the age of 30 supported the president by 61 percent in 2008 and will also be an important demographic for Democrats in the upcoming election.

PolitiFact, a Pulitzer Prize winning news site, acknowledged that new laws would "likely diminish the voter pool" and agreed that minorities would be affected disproportionally.

However, PolitiFact stated that the Jim Crow laws, enacted between 1876 and 1965, disenfranchised all or virtually all of the potential black voters in southern states and was utterly racist.

Voter laws, thought limiting in some respects, does not restrict all minorities from voting.

The website also quoted Yale University professor and election law specialist Heather Gerken who said that voter laws, while they can be misused, are not racist.

"Photo ID laws are the product of good motives (a desire to prevent fraud) and bad motives," she said.

 

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