Bill Clinton compares new voting laws to Jim Crow
July 6th, 2011
06:43 PM ET
9 years ago

Bill Clinton compares new voting laws to Jim Crow

Washington (CNN) - Former President Bill Clinton compared efforts by Republicans to change voting laws across the country to Jim Crow laws and poll taxes that historically disenfranchised African American voters.

Speaking before a group of liberal youth activists Wednesday, Clinton said laws in states like Florida and New Hampshire are aimed at limiting voter turnout and keeping young people from the ballot box.

"There has never been in my lifetime, since we got rid of the poll tax and all the voter Jim Crow burdens on voting, the determined effort to limit a franchise that we see today," Clinton said at Campus Progress's annual conference in Washington.

Jim Crow laws, enacted between 1876 and 1965, included fees and laws historically used to keep African-Americans from voting. Clinton said Republican governors and legislators are now trying to "keep most of you [young people] from voting next time."

"They [Republicans] are trying to make the 2012 electorate look more like the 2010 electorate than the 2008 electorate," Clinton added, referencing the dip in youth voter turnout in the 2010 elections. "Are you fighting? You should be fighting it."

Younger voters turned out at historic levels during the 2008 election helping propel Obama to the White House, but dropped off considerably in 2010.

Clinton was critical of regulations preventing same-day registration and specifically referenced Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott's move in March to overturn a law that allowed convicted felons to vote after they completed their probation.

"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 and would tend to vote for Democrats, that's why."

He also referred to a proposal in New Hampshire that would prevent college students from registering to vote where they attend school, instead of where they are from originally.

Democratic Committee Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz made similar comments in June, calling attention to the Sunshine State effort. The Florida congresswoman told CNN contributor Roland Martin Republicans "want to literally drag us all the way back to Jim Crow laws" and block Democratic voters from the polls.

Schultz later said "Jim Crow was the wrong analogy to use."

Chris Jankowski, president of the Republican State Leadership Committee, said Clinton was using Schutlz's talking and points “owes an apology to Republican legislators that are seeking sensible steps to protect the integrity of elections in our country.”

“Maybe it was an attempt to distract from the Democrats’ abysmal record of tax hikes and shutdowns over spending cuts, or perhaps he was simply trying to be provocative while speaking to a super-liberal audience,” Jankowski said in a statement. “Either way, such rhetoric is out of bounds.”

- CNN's Rebecca Stewart contributed to this report.

Filed under: 2012 • Bill Clinton
soundoff (179 Responses)
  1. JRuss

    My experience in absentee voting during my college years is that it is exceptionally easy if you put a slight amount of effort into it a couple weeks in advance of the election, something a very small percentage of my fellow students felt was important. My experience with it now is that it's even easier. Certainly someone who can graduate high school and get into college should be able to handle absentee voting.

    July 7, 2011 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  2. Scott

    Funny, one of the proposals being lofted is the requirment to prove citizenship before being allowed to vote. Note that Bill tap danced around that liitle land mine. He quietly ties those into his point by saying "laws across the country" but never addresses that program. I think many of these other laws are in repsonse to Democrats attempts to manipulate voting. Recall Sarah Slivermans' Great Schlep? She claims, and this is from the website that " And you schlepped on down and sat with Zadie. And because of you hundreds of thousands of Jews voted for Obama in Florida, more than making the difference in that state." Why doesn't anyone criticize efforts like that?

    July 7, 2011 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  3. TTL

    If they are old enough to and American enough to die in war, then they are old enough and American enough to vote. End of discussion!

    July 7, 2011 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  4. Taioseach

    Why should he apologize for telling the truth? Clinton's messaging needs to be driven home. The Republicans are showing their true colors more and more the closer it comes to election time the more mud they'll sling.

    July 7, 2011 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
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