Former President Bill Clinton today compared GOP efforts to limit same-day voter registration and block some convicted felons from voting to Jim Crow laws and poll taxes.
In a speech to liberal youth activists Wednesday, the former president called out proposals in battleground states like Florida and Ohio that could limit the voter rolls.
“I can’t help thinking since we just celebrated the Fourth of July and we’re supposed to be a country dedicated to liberty that 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 said at Campus Progress’s annual conference in Washington.
“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 added.
Clinton mentioned Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s move in March to overturn past state precedent – including under former GOP governors – that allows convicted felons to vote once they’ve served they’ve finished probation periods.
“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.”
He also cited the New Hampshire proposal – which is currently stymied by a veto from Democratic Gov. John Lynch – that would stop college students who are from other states from registering to vote where they go to school.
Other states with powerful new GOP majorities have also drawn fire for their recent proposals to change voting laws.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich is expected to sign a bill that eliminates several early voting options and also eliminates a week-long period when voters could register and cast ballots at the same time. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed a law in May requiring voters to show identification at the polls and to have lived in their ward 28 days before the election.
And Maine Gov. Paul LePage last month approved a bill that negates a 38-year old law allowing same-day registration.
“Why is all of this going on? This is not rocket science. They are trying to make the 2012 electorate look more like the 2010 electorate than the 2008 electorate,” Clinton said.
Chris Jankowski, president of the Republican State Leadership Committee, pushed back against Clinton’s charge that the GOP is out to keep people from making it to the voting booth.
“It’s just not fair to paint all these proposals with the same broad brush,” he said.
“The Republican legislative majorities and their governors around the country are standing up for the integrity of the election process,” he added. “We support everyone who is entitled to vote to vote. And to take issue with that, to be opposed to that principle means you’re actually supporting illegal voting.”
Jankowski also said that turnout is fair game in politics. “Each party is free to do everything they should and possibly can to turn out their voters,” he said.
Carolyn Fiddler, communications director for the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, welcomed Clinton’s remarks on an issue her organization has been closely tracking. “It’s such a serious issue, and it’s exciting to know Clinton is speaking out on it,” she said.