Former President Bill Clinton weighed in on Republican efforts in several states to pass new restrictions on voting, comparing the measures to the Jim Crow laws of the past.
“There has never been in my lifetime, since we got rid of the poll tax and all the Jim Crow burdens on voting, the determined effort to limit the franchise that we see today,” Clinton said in a speech at a Campus Progress conference in Washington.
He specifically called out Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) for trying to reverse past precedent and prevent convicted felons from voting even after they’ve completed their sentence.
“Why should we disenfranchise people forever once they’ve paid their price?” Clinton said. “Because most of them in Florida were African Americans and Hispanics who tended to vote for Democrats. That’s why.”
Clinton is hardly the first Democrat to raise the alarm over a wave of Republican-proposed laws purportedly aimed at combating voter fraud. The Democratic Governor Association is raising money for a new voter protection project to counter the proposals, which they say violate minority voters’ civil rights.
Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz recently made similar comparisons to Jim Crow over the Florida policy as well as new voter ID laws in other states that civil rights activists have likened to a poll tax.
“You have the Republicans, who want to literally drag us all the way back to Jim Crow laws and literally — and very transparently — block access to the polls to voters who are more likely to vote for Democratic candidates than Republican candidates,” she said. The Florida Congresswoman later walked back her remarks, saying the JIm Crow reference was the “wrong analogy.”
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.