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. Gary

    Younger voters aren't interested in mid-term elections and that's why they dropped away in 2010. They will be back. Even w/out, GOP doesn't stand a chance. Truth hurts for some. Deal with it.

    July 7, 2011 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  2. Ross

    Man, I just don't understand how there can be middle class Republicans when this stuff goes on.

    July 7, 2011 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  3. DinaK

    Areas where i.d. is required to vote have shown just as high of a minority turnout during elections as those places without i.d. requirements. For something as important as voting, why shouldn't a person have to prove his/her own identity and/legal status for voting? If no i.d. is required, how do we stop illegal aliens from voting? I guarantee that if the overwhelming trend of illegal alien voting favored conservatives, the media and liberal legislators would be up in arms over stolen and invalid elections. But, since the illegal voting is always overwhelmingly in favor of liberal politicians, Democrats and the media could care less over legal or illegal voting.

    July 7, 2011 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  4. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    My God! For this I spent 12 years in the Navy! So State Legislatures could come with means to PREVENT people from voting? All to combat alleged voter fraud? Get real! The worst examples of Voter Fraud in recent history were Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004! And guess who won those states in those years? The Republican Governor of Florida and the Republican Secretary of State of Florida approved a ballot format for Palm Beach County that was specifically prohibited by Florida Election law causing these ballots to be individually hand counted to see who was actually voted for.
    In Ohio, the chairman of Diebold (also a principal in W's reelection campaign) provided voting machines for the state that recorded more Republican votes in some counties than they had actual people living in them!
    And Republicans are worried that illegal immigrants may try to vote. Like I said, gimme a break!

    July 7, 2011 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  5. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    And I forgot – Ms. Schultz called it like it is. Jim Crow laws!

    July 7, 2011 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  6. kyle

    The voter ID laws are 100 percent Jim Crow, there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud, no convictions, nothing.

    July 7, 2011 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  7. Peter s

    The statesman President Clinton is right on!!! The south led by that old man of the FreedomWorks chairman, the former House Majority Leader and recently-retired lobbyist extraordinaire, Dick Armey. Formerly employed by as lobbyist by leading international “consulting firm” DLA Piper from 2005 to 2009, Armey promoted the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, otherwise known as Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), which the State Department has branded a terrorist group. Armey lobbied his former colleagues on behalf of legislation that would have provided taxpayer support to the MEK. This is the same guy! who said “People who could not even spell the word 'vote,' or say it in English." Now the Republican Governors are implementing the idea!!! people time to stop them on their track!! don't wait for another month or week the time is now!!!

    July 7, 2011 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  8. LexJeff

    It is quite easy to get a state issued ID. I went with my 15 yr old daughter to get hers for some air travel we had planned and it took less than 30 minutes and only cost $10. Don't try to say that the $10 is "disenfranchising" the poor since all it means is giving up a couple packs of cigarettes, a 12-pack of beer or trip to fast-food land to pay for it, if voting is something that individual values.

    I think it's fine to require a thinking individual, who desires to express their voice through voting, to register in advance, at their county of residence and then to provide some proof (read I.D.) that you are the registered voter on the list when you show up. How is disenfranchising anyone that is taking this responsibility seriously?

    July 7, 2011 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  9. Democrat Tax and Spend Forever?

    i.e. it will be much much harder for democrats to commit massive unchecked voter fraud as they have in many states in the past couple elections. Well, we certainly can't have that can we?

    July 7, 2011 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  10. Mike

    There was massive young voters in 2008 because a black man was running for President and it was "hip" to vote for the black guy.
    He wasn't on the ballot in 2010 so those same "I want to be with the "IN" crowd" voters failed to show up.
    It had nothing to do with being disenfranchised. As the experts. They all agreed, whether Fox, MSNBC, NBC, CBS, CNN, that not having Obama on the ballot cost the Democrats more than any other single factor.
    The Dems have no platform whatsoever to run on. They've run this country into the ground faster than Bush did and now they want to continue to blame Republicans for everything. Just like a liberal to blame their woes on someone else.
    It is time people in this country take responsibility for their own actions and stop blaming everyone else.
    If you are required to register in advance than do so! If you are required to have a valid ID than get one!
    If you want to vote then it shouldn't be such a burden on you to do what the law requires.
    If we don't have some pretty tough voting laws it makes it almost impossible to not prevent illegals from voting. That is what ACORN did by the thousands. Yet you liberals seem to not want to discuss all the voter fraud being done by your party and it's affiliates because that benefits you.
    You're nothing but a bunch of hypocrites.

    July 7, 2011 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  11. ricky

    If the right to vote is sacred, then shouldn't it be protected against fraud? Shouldn't a citizen be required to at least prove, in some resanable manner, that they are actually a citizen and registrant of the district they are voting in? At least require that the voter show their Social security card, and a current utility bill from an address in the voting district.
    What about asking for a 'finger-dip' in dye to at least prevent anyone from trying to vote multiple times? What happens to people who DO vote fradulently? Shouldn't they be punished in some fashion (lose voting rights for 8 years, etc)? "trust me" doesn't work in any other form of our government, so why should it work here?

    July 7, 2011 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  12. ricky

    Also, the requirement for voters to be property owners wasn't established with the 'Jim Crow' laws (which have their origin in Pennsylvania, not the south), but by the original framers of the Constitution. From the beginning of our nation's founding, voting was limited to male property owners. So it isn't 'racist' to ask a voter to prove their identity.

    July 7, 2011 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  13. Liz

    Clinton is becoming the new Carter. He is saying provocative things to stir the pot and cause a lot of unnecessary anger. He is very, very irrelevant at this point.

    July 7, 2011 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  14. Brian

    If someone has to prove who they are to vote . . . then it is racism?? Why is everything about racism? Because that is the only way the democrats think. If they don't like something, call it racism. If you have to show an ID to vote, call it racism. It does not matter who you are voting for or what color you skin is, it must be racism. The democrats always use the race card when they can't explain anything. We must show an ID to purchase alcohol, to buy cigarettes, to drive a car but for some reason if you require it to vote then you are a racist?? The democratic party continue to rely on illegal votes to support their views and we the legal citizens are tired of it.

    July 7, 2011 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  15. srichey321

    Clinton might be a "no-good, lying cheating adulterer", but he is usually correct when it comes to policy and politics.

    July 7, 2011 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  16. LexJeff

    twiddly wrote @ 8:30am: "If the majority of ex-felons were older white males it is a given that the republicans would make sure they could vote. This is clearly just racist partisanship."

    Hate to break it to you twiddly, the majority ARE white males. A larger % of the overall African American male population is classified as felon or ex-felon, but the actual headcount is larger withing the Caucasian population. So, your uneducated post is nullified.

    I tend to agree that if someone has paid their debt, and proven to be a solid citizen, they should be given a second chance. However, with a 41.3% recidivism rate after only 3 years and a 59.4% recidivism rate after 10 years, the sad fact is that a significant portion of released ex-felons do not "change" and end up back in prison. So, maybe have a 5 year post-probation vesting period to earn back your right to vote? I could support that.

    July 7, 2011 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  17. Stephen

    President Clinton is shameless in this comparison. But in the same spirit of shamelessness, might we consider that young voters don't have a clue? That they are largely more interested in Kim Kardashian then in issues that really matter? Perhaps President Obama's appeal to the young vote speaks more to his lack of depth than anything else.

    July 7, 2011 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  18. Indiana Voter

    It is always the Democrats who cry racism every time something goes against their wishes. Like the child who cries wolf, this is becoming less and less "shocking" or "outrageous" each time the race card is used.

    July 7, 2011 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  19. WDRussell

    It is about time we start using the proper terms.

    Voter fraud is as rare as an honest republican.

    July 7, 2011 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  20. unhanon

    Speaking as someone from NH (one of the states referenced) these issues are not always to elect Republicans. I voted for Obama in 2008, and will probably do so again in 2012. However, I live in a town of 6,000 that is host to a university holding 13,000 students. These students are here for very short periods of time, and they have very short-term concerns. If our local gov't was run by the students the vast majority of the town would be set up like a walking strip mall of fraternity houses and bars. They would me only nominally concerned with things like education, historical and ecological preservation, and basic infrastructure.
    I'm all for students voting. However it should be in a context where they have a stake in the outcome and an understanding of the context. In this case that would most likely be the state from which they originally come. They know the neighbors and the neighborhoods, they are aware of the schools, the industry, the crime levels, etc. For better or worse, the majority of out-of-state students just don't connect to the local community quickly enough to properly inform them.
    Historically, voting was tied to property and thus to taxation. The whole "taxation without representation" bit. In NH, with no state sales or income tax, many university students do not pay tax (tax is paid on property, but state universities are exempt from property tax). From that purely historical perspective, these students have not "earned" the right to vote in the state.

    July 7, 2011 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  21. DougieOh

    So, is it an attempt to return to Jim Crow when you are asked to show your ID at the ticket counter at the airport?

    Lefties never think about what they say. They just FEEL it.

    July 7, 2011 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  22. Joe

    The country is in deep trouble. Obeying the already in-place laws is being a raciest. Hey Wet Cigar Bill, you perjured yourself to all Americans, are you a raciest also?

    July 7, 2011 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  23. Saywhut?

    OK, so what I take away from this is a large majority of felons are Democrats? Next we should reinstate a felon's right to acquire a handgun, I mean, he's paid his debt so let's not have any consequences for his actions, that would make waaaaaay too much sense. Does Clinton ever listen to himself? I see why he made such a great team with Al Gore. Speak first, engage brain later. I'm not sure an effort to prevent voter fraud is automatically racist. This whole flow of reasoning blows my mind. Most criminals are minorities so therefore they are Democrats therefore they are being denied voting because they are Democrats. Geez guys, get real.

    July 7, 2011 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  24. Funkymonkey

    Republicans won't be happy until only white wealthy male adults can vote. Until then their base will continue to erode until they go the way of the dodo (or should I say dough-dough).

    July 7, 2011 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  25. Sniffit

    He's 100% correct. Studies show that such laws have a discriminatory and DISPARATE EFFECT on minorities and the poor. When it comes to helping people who suffer the massive power imbalance their economic policies have created, the GOP doesn't want one red cent of taxpayer money to be spent...but when it comes to screwing them further, they'll gladly and maluiciously pour millions upon millions into the legal battles they've manufactured in hopes that their handpicked lackies on the SCOTUS will eventually just hand them politically motivated, legally ignorant victories.

    July 7, 2011 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
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