DNC chair Wasserman Schultz under fire for Jim Crow comments
June 6th, 2011
05:39 PM ET
12 years ago

DNC chair Wasserman Schultz under fire for Jim Crow comments

Washington (CNN)-Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz might "say anything," but she also might take it back. After being blasted by opponents for invoking Jim Crow during a critique of voter identification laws backed by Republicans, the congresswoman admitted using the "wrong analogy."

When asked about the measures including identification requirements and shorter windows for early voting Sunday, the Florida congresswoman told Roland Martin, CNN contributor and host of "Washington Watch" on TV One, "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." But she later backed down.

Wasserman Schultz also compared the controversial measures to poll taxes, fees historically used to keep African-Americans from voting that were abolished in 1964.

"Photo I.D. laws, we think, are very similar to a poll tax," she said Sunday. "Just look at African-American voters as a snapshot. About 25 percent of African-American voters don't have a valid photo I.D….the reason it's similar to a poll tax is because you've got the expense. You've got the effort."

During the interview Wasserman Schultz also railed against measures proposed by Florida GOP Gov. Rick Scott that would require photo identification, calling them "barriers" to those trying to exercise their right to vote.

"There is so little voter fraud, which is the professed reason the Republicans are advancing these laws," she asserted. "You're more likely to get hit by lightning than you are to see an instance of voter fraud in this country."

"Republicans are imposing laws all over the country, acting like…voter fraud is rampant, and it's ridiculous," Wasserman Schultz claimed.

The National Republican Congressional Committee fired back Monday and accused the four-term Democratic congresswoman of making "absurd accusations" and "offensive remarks."

In a statement the Republican committee said, "Wasserman Schultz will 'literally' say anything."

"After a week of fact-checks debunking her absurd accusations about the GOP plan to save Medicare, DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz is back at it again spouting offensive and outrageous statements," said the NRCC.

Wasserman Schultz responded Monday by dialing back her comments.

"Jim Crow was the wrong analogy to use," she said.

"I don't regret calling attention to the efforts in a number of states with Republican dominated legislatures, including Florida, to restrict access to the ballot box for all kinds of voters, but particularly young voters, African Americans and Hispanic Americans."

Wasserman Schultz was elected chair of the Democratic National Committee in early May, following the resignation of former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, who is now pursuing a seat in the U.S. Senate.

Filed under: Debbie Wasserman Schultz • DNC
soundoff (60 Responses)
  1. Wise1Speak

    You Go Girl! We believe in you!

    June 6, 2011 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  2. Bessy

    What was wrong with those comments ? She was absolutely right. I hope we don't start appologizing for everything we say because we feel it is not " poltically correct ".

    June 6, 2011 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  3. p

    She is right and sharp as a tack.

    June 6, 2011 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  4. carly

    Too bad GOP. If you can't take the heat and truth stay out of politics. Go Debbie.

    June 6, 2011 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  5. Anonymous in SC

    DNC chair Wasserman Schultz had the courage to speak truth even though it may not be popular or well received. I could not agree more with her statement. SC's governor recently approved a Voter ID measure that could see as many at 19,000 disenfranchised voters. These voters could be your college age son or daughter or grandparents (some handicapped, disabled or bound to a nursing home) who want and need to voter absentee ballot. Please write to your local representatives and ask them to respectful rescind this act or see to it that this transgression is not made those with a limited voice as it is.

    Some of you may say that 19,000 votes don't matter...but in a state like South Carolina, every vote counts. Look at the appalling voter turnout statistics, particularly in counties with lower income. This is nothing more than a tactic to discourage voter turnout for one's political opponent. This is not a liberal statement. This is a common sense observation.

    June 6, 2011 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  6. Squealy

    Yup, she is calling it as she sees it, and her vision is 20/20

    June 6, 2011 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  7. Hot Dog

    The truth hurts. She should not have to retrack her statement. This entire voting process and pollitics in general in this country is one big joke.

    June 6, 2011 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  8. Ken from San Antonio

    Don't apologize Debbie because you are exactly right. Republican motives are the same as Jim Crow laws and as the hanging chad fiasco. They simply don't want the vote of all Americans to be counted, particularly those they know will not vote for them. In Washington state we used all mail-in ballots. And in other states which use absentee ballots, are voters going to have to go the courthouse to show their photo ID to get a ballot? If not I contend that is blatant discrimination.

    June 6, 2011 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  9. Corey T.

    The DNC chairwoman is correct. Republicans will do anything to try to boost their numbers and block anyone who oppose them. It is almost as if they do not believe in democracy (hmmm.....)

    Why is the GOP giving her flack? Well, they realize she is right, but must try to cover it up and make her look like a quack. Maybe the GOP should look in the mirror sometime. Keep at it Congresswoman!

    June 6, 2011 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  10. Truth Dealer

    Never apologize for speaking the truth ! Keep telling it like it is Debbie !

    June 6, 2011 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    dont back down chairlady!

    June 6, 2011 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  12. jzip

    She spoke the truth and should not back down!

    June 6, 2011 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  13. SKS

    True, voter suppression is voter suppression, especially in Florida. So sad.

    June 6, 2011 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  14. JJOE

    She had all the right in the world to accuse the Republicans of that. They fought their own president for 100 years and they still have not stop fighting. They are trying to stop Democrats at what ever cost.

    June 6, 2011 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  15. Jim

    I don't know why she's back pedaling. Her description isn't far from the truth. Sure, Republicans aren't putting up poll taxes anymore (though they tried what amounted to one in Georgia a few years ago before it was struck down), but they're bending over backward in their efforts to implement all sorts of rules to decrease voter turnout of young people, the poor, the elderly, and minorities. In my state of Ohio they want to shorten early absentee voting by half, which makes it much harder for young people to vote, as many don't live in their home districts in November. They want to restrict the kind of ID you use to vote to exclude students from using state issued documents from public universities with their name and address, even though it's part of the state. Even though district lines are going to be redrawn due to the census, they don't want poll workers to have the right to direct you to the correct polling station. The Republican maneuvering amounts to textbook voter suppression.

    June 6, 2011 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  16. Marcus in Greensboro, NC

    She should have stood her ground on what she said, because it's blatantly clear it was the truth. Republicans despise the truth, so she should have stayed the course. Democrats need to stop backing down when they are right.

    June 6, 2011 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  17. Namejerry

    If they can afford drugs and booze, they can afford an ID

    June 6, 2011 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  18. I'm a GOP Hostage and so are you

    DWS is the BEST!

    She is also obviously dead-on with her comments.

    June 6, 2011 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  19. Sonnie2

    Voter Fraud is Voter Fraud. Have proper documents to drive a car and to vote also, It just a common sense thing/

    June 7, 2011 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  20. James

    Photo I.D. is voter suppression? Really?

    June 7, 2011 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  21. cindy

    Say what you mean and mean what you say. A problem was brought out and it is what it is-don't walk it back and please don't apologize for what was said. I'd hate to think you are talking out the side of your neck like many politicians do. Now what caan be done to SOLVE the problem?

    June 7, 2011 12:47 am at 12:47 am |
  22. Dan J

    How is legally identifying yourself voter suppression? How can she say that there is little voter fraud when we have a group like Acorn that is on record for conducting fraud?

    June 7, 2011 01:16 am at 1:16 am |
  23. Bob

    Do not back down!! These laws are taking us back to the days of Jim Crow. Republicans just can't handle the truth.

    June 7, 2011 01:23 am at 1:23 am |
  24. Sara, Wisconsin

    Perhaps it is time to tell the truth – she's not wrong in her assessment of the situation. If it steps on the feelings of those trying to suppress voters, then so be it.

    June 7, 2011 03:27 am at 3:27 am |
  25. blucorsair

    The're running scared since ACORN is gone ...resorting to racial caldron stirring is the DNC's only hope!

    June 7, 2011 04:04 am at 4:04 am |
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