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. B

    Systemic racism is still alive and well in this country and the Republicans are all for furthering legislation to continue the trend that we thought had been dealt with in the past. There is a direct effort to keep minorities and young people from voting because most of that group tend to vote Democratic!

    They are unconscionable racists taking this country backwards and need to be called out on it very loudly!

    July 6, 2011 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  2. samsmee

    Chris Jankowski is a traitor to the United States Of America as is all republicans and conservatives.

    July 6, 2011 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  3. ajh5408

    Out of bounds? Doesn't requiring government-issued ID to vote (albeit not accepting school ID's) specifically disenfranchise the young and people who don't drive? If you don't know anyone without a government-issued ID, I suggest you get out more. Search the internet for proven cases of voter fraud... They don't actually exist. This is all about making it more difficult to have a voice in this country.

    The Republican line is this: "Young people are too stupid to vote effectively. They don't make enough money, they don't own homes... They don't know what's good for them." Ask yourself whether or not you want a party that has this as their stated belief to be a significant force in governing YOU.

    July 6, 2011 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  4. Rudy NYC

    Once a person has paid their debt to society they should be allowed to vote. Denying them the right to vote can be viewed as cruel and unusual punishment. They are being given a life sentence for minor crimes.

    July 6, 2011 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  5. Ron

    Boys you can fight it all you want, but the demographics are going to change! It's just that simple. And, you'd better believe "people" will remember when you tried to deny them their right to vote as American citizens.

    July 6, 2011 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  6. usualone

    President Clinton is right on the button. Tax hikes are only going back to before the "temporary" tax rates introduced by President Bush, and the taxes only apply to those making moola. The Republican is trying to scare everyone about taxes. Already, from what i have read, the redistricting is favoring the Republicans for elections.

    July 6, 2011 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  7. NC Independent

    Republican legislators in NC are trying to do the same thing. They are also redrawing Congresional and Legislative districts to favor Republicans. Our Governor can not veto district redrawing. We have a great Governor who is a Democrat that has vetoed many bills. Go to our website and read some of the ridiculous bills they passed. CNN please send a team to NC and let the country know what Republicans here are doing.

    July 6, 2011 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  8. Debra From Georgia

    He is telling the truth

    July 6, 2011 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  9. lgny

    Just read the Kerner Commission Report back in the 60's to see how evil the Jim Crow voting laws were.

    Simple sounding measures like "requiring a photo id to vote" sound good but what about those who do not have a driver's license? What provisions do the state provide to make it easy to get the equivalent ID? I remember reading of one state that only issues the ID's at county offices that are open only a few hours each week.

    July 6, 2011 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  10. rhumba

    Such talk is not "out of bounds" when it's pretty obvious that President Clinton is right. He owes no apologies to anyone. Jankowski is trying to distract from the blatant attempts to keep the young, the poor, and the minorities away from the ballot box. in 2012.

    July 6, 2011 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  11. Too Smart to Vote Republican

    Here in MN the Republicans tried to enact a "Voter ID" law aimed at keeping young people and poor people from voting. Thankfully, we have a Democrat for a Governor and he vetoed it. The Republicans didn't want to give up on their voter surpression efforts and threatened to put it on the ballot for 2012. Now they are distracted by our budget battle (which they should have been working on in the first place instead of voter surpression, anti-abortion rules, and anti-gay marriage actions). Hopefully they won't take it up again. "Voter ID" SOUNDS like it would be a good thing, but the way the GOP arranges it all it does is keep young people and poor people from being able to vote. There are many homeless veterans (a travesty in itself) and these people who have served their country would be unable to vote simply because they are homeless. It is disgusting. We should be encouraging people to vote, not keeping people who want to vote from voting. The MN Republicans claim they "must" do this to prevent voter fraud, but when asked for examples of the type of fraud they want to prevent they cannot find any. We do not have a fraud problem. They are doing it for one reason only - to keep people who generally do not vote for them from voting. All Americans should stand up against this and think twice about voting Republican since the GOP supports voter supression.

    July 6, 2011 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  12. edbonfla

    Why do the Democrats always play the race card? Governor Scott's intentions in no way are pointed at a particular minority. Has ex-President Clinton looked at how many convicted felons there are that are white versus the two minority groups he singled out? And how does Florida's law relate to college age youth? He is reinitiating the use of race, as he did in 2008, to energize the Democratic base for 2012. Why can't he suggest that potential voters educate themselves on the issues instead of resorting to the dirt and divisiveness?

    July 6, 2011 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  13. johnson


    July 6, 2011 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  14. Ryan

    Clinton playing the race card – what a surprise.

    July 6, 2011 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  15. Former Republican, now an Independent

    This is one time Bill Clinton is 100% correct. The current day neo-cons that have conquered the republican party will do anything to get elected in 2012, no matter who's rights are taken away. African Americans, American Workers, Women, Policemen, Firemen, Teachers, and the list goes on and is growing every day.

    July 6, 2011 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  16. GOP = Greed Over People

    Thank you, Bill, it is way past time for someone to call out these GOP governors as the racists they really are.

    July 6, 2011 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |

    You go Bill! It's about time that these republican governors got called out on the mat. These are indeed Jim Crow type laws. the GOP is doing everything and I mean everything possible to try to defeat President Obama. These laws will be taken to the Supreme Court and even with the court divided how it is, these laws will be struck down. The GOP wants to take the country back to the 1940's or 50's. To the GOP, it won't happen and the GOP is also going to have a rude awakening in 2012 when the House goes back to the democrats who will also hold the Senate. The extreme policies of the GOP is far too right for the American people.

    July 6, 2011 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  18. Very Accurate

    President Clinton's comparison is accurate. They are laws meant only to disenfranchise a certain block of voters. Its just that now its classified as other names instead of black, its now felons, or young voters.

    They either don't know or don't remember that every attempt to block voters only made the turnout against them rise even more.

    July 6, 2011 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  19. Squealy

    Clinton is right and we'd better wake up! It may not be you that is disenfranchised this time, but it just may be the next.

    July 6, 2011 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  20. ThinkAgain

    "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.”

    Oh, Bull! Republicans are trying to make it extremely hard for students and others to vote – and that's a FACT! Why? Because Republicans have NOTHING to offer our country – no record of accomplishments, no new ideas, no desire to help the Middle Class, no plan for moving our country forward.

    This effort to suppress voting is just another in a long line of actions on the part of the GOP to ruin our country and turn us into a third-world nation where the top 2% own and control everything.

    We need to fight this, folks! Because voting for a Republican is like a chicken voting for Col. Sanders.

    July 6, 2011 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  21. Tre'

    sure that's what they're doing... they really just want to prevent minorities from voting. It has nothing to do with making sure only citizens are voting. It's all about making youth not want to vote.

    July 6, 2011 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  22. Will

    Bill Clinton is just another db in the long line of idiots in Washington. Why shouldn't someone have to show they are who they say they are? Why should illegals be able to commit fraud by voting when they are not allowed to? Why should people be allowed to walk into the polls, with no id and vote for others? I am NOT a republican but the democrats using the race card is getting really old. A lot of you need to wake up and realize BOTH sides are holding this country back with bs like this.

    July 6, 2011 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  23. Rick Sutter

    Clinton is just trying to stay in the spotlight. It is ludricous to compare picture ID with a poll tax. Let's be honest. Democrats want illegals to be able to vote.

    July 6, 2011 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  24. Grady

    Chris Janowski speaks with the same forked-tongue of many of his Republicn contemporaries. President Clinton's direct comments and reference to Jim Crow were quite appropiate for the reality of a trend that is gaining momentum around the country. It is the shameful, self-serving and sore loser mindset of today's Republican leadership that is out of bounds and off the leash to say the least. It is time for Congress to act, voting is a right, not a privilege for the privileged only. Every American has the inherent right to register and vote for the candidate of their choice in local, state and national elections. A uniform Voter Eligibility and Reinstatement Act that would be applied nationwide would solve the problem once and for all. It won't happen because both sides thinks it will give the other side an unfair advantage (whatever that is).

    July 6, 2011 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  25. JFK

    chris jankowski- shut your mouth. boo hoo...he said the words "jim crow"...what? we can't use examples in our past to educate and prevent it from happening again?

    July 6, 2011 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
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