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. MIke

    If the republicans are influencing election outcomes, and I'm not at all saying they are, then at least they do so in the full llight of day rather than in some dark liberal bastion courtroom like democrats do.

    July 7, 2011 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  2. Cedar Rapids

    '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.'
    Such as what? All ACORN has ever been found guilty of is paying people based on the amount of signatures they got. It was stupid of course because people being people will mean they will fill the forms in with any old crap, but that result is not ACORN trying to committ fraud. The idea that someone filling in Mickey Mouse on a form will mean that someone using that name will actually try to vote it just stupid.

    July 7, 2011 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  3. Sniffit

    "might we consider that young voters don't have a clue?"

    Does the same go for adults who absolutely refuse to accept facts, evidence, science, historical record, etc., showing such wonderous abominations as "trickle down" economics and blind adherence to "free market" theory have massively redistributed all the wealth in this county to the already extremely wealthy and corporate interests, away from teh middle-class and poor and caused the current economic crisis, which at root, is almost entirely a crisis of demand caused by the skyrocketing average household debt of the middle-class, their salaries remaining stagnant for almost 4 decades and their current inability to spend in order to infuse the ecnomy with cash flow? That man has not contributed to climate change or that evolution is a myth? Can we also apply it to people who believe in invisible sky magicians who spend all their time watching our bedrooms and declaring their true-believers to be superior to everyone else? That Jefferson and Madison and the rest of the founding fathers didn't write all those letters and books and treatises explaining that there was to be a "wall of separation" between church and state in this country? Can we apply it to all those people too?

    Fact is, once again, studies often show that young people are actually quite informed about the issues we face and NOBODY has a greater stake in the direction of the country's future than they do.

    July 7, 2011 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  4. Russ from Md.

    If you give convicts a right to vote, then give them all their rights back. That sounds good. Let’s let them legally own guns just too. A convicted felon should never have the right to vote. They gave up all but the right to live when they broke the law no matter what the felon.

    July 7, 2011 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  5. s

    this sets an unhealthy precedent where down the road, someone may use these tricks to disenfranchise right wingers.

    July 7, 2011 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  6. s

    lets disenfranchise right wingers and laugh when they cry foul

    July 7, 2011 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  7. Ozzie

    The party that stole an election now cares about voting integrity. Has the irony of the fellow who murdered his parents and now asks for leniency because he's an orphan.

    July 7, 2011 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  8. Minneminne

    Mike, you need to give some examples before you throw that accusation around. I'm sick of some conservatives accusing liberals of using the courtroom to further a liberal agenda – give us some proof of that where what is at stake isn't civil rights (and was correctly decided in the courts).

    July 7, 2011 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  9. Russ from Md.

    @Too Smart to Vote Republican: When were you born? The 2008 elections were riddled with voter fraud. Did you ever hear of ACORN?

    July 7, 2011 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  10. Stoney

    Why does this guy still carry any influence. Guess only with the young and naive.

    July 7, 2011 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  11. Mark from Louisiana

    We wouldn't need new voter ID requirements if the democrats would stop registering dead people to vote.

    The task was overwhelming. With 1.9 million voters and 886 voting precincts, Houston’s Harris County is the second largest county in the country - and the key to Texas elections.

    The group called for help and quickly got 30 donated computers and “tens of thousands of hours” of volunteer work. And then the questions started to arise.

    “Vacant lots had several voters registered on them. An eight-bed halfway house had more than 40 voters registered at its address,” Engelbrecht said. “We then decided to look at who was registering the voters."

    Their work paid off. Two weeks ago the Harris County voter registrar took their work and the findings of his own investigation and handed them over to both the Texas secretary of state’s office and the Harris County district attorney.

    Most of the findings focused on a group called Houston Votes, a voter registration group headed by Sean Caddle, who also worked for the Service Employees International Union before coming to Houston. Among the findings were that only 1,793 of the 25,000 registrations the group submitted appeared to be valid.

    The other registrations included one of a woman who registered six times in the same day; registrations of non-citizens; so many applications from one Houston Voters collector in one day that it was deemed to be beyond human capability; and 1,597 registrations that named the same person multiple times, often with different signatures.

    July 7, 2011 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  12. railroad

    Really? College students should only be allowed to vote in the state in which they reside. They will affect the college town/city in which they will live for only a couple of months....very few a couple of years. As far as racism? Come on. Poor, poor pityful me. Clinton is an idiot. Anyone who gives credence to anything that he says follows suit. The only backwards thinking is your own. Man up and stop jumping on coat tails!

    July 7, 2011 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  13. FEDFL

    Republican politicians, using the disguise of "protecting elections", are manufacturing laws that deliberately and blatantly target the poor by discouraging or restricting their ability to vote.

    In addition to these attempts to eliminate voters, Republicans are also blatantly gerrymandering election districts to eliminate fair elections.

    But the real treason being played out in these disgusting actions is the Republicans claim that they are doing all of this to "protect" America's democracy.


    July 7, 2011 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  14. Jason B.

    Our corrupt GOP legislature is doing the same crap here in KS. Of course it's all in the name of preventing "voter fraud". Right. There have been a handful of cases of fraud over the millions of votes cast. This simply can't be legal. Not everyone has a gov't ID. And you know the process of getting one won't be easy, regardless of the GOP claims. Besides, how is the GOP going to pay for all these programs? Aren't they the ones wanting to cut and slash budgets, yet find time for this junk?

    July 7, 2011 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  15. ZiggyOfAk

    While this (especially the Florida law) is a measure of disenfranchisement. It can't be compared to Jim Crow without the intimidation that was going on in that time period. Nobody is threatening to harm New Hampshire college kids for showing up at the polls.

    July 7, 2011 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  16. railroad

    Nevada officials charged ACORN, its regional director and its Las Vegas field director with submitting thousands of fraudulent voter registration forms last year. Larry Lomax, the registrar of voters in Las Vegas, says he believes 48% of Acorn's forms "are clearly fraudulent." On Thursday, prosecutors in Pittsburgh, Pa., also charged seven Acorn employees with filing hundreds of fraudulent voter registrations before last year's general election.

    And Republicans are out of line?

    July 7, 2011 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  17. M. Dodd

    We have cases in Milwaukee where high school students under the age of 18 did same day registration w/out ID (all they needed was a friend to vouch for them) and voted in our recent WI supreme court election. This is a documented fact. They were encouraged to do this by their teachers as the teachers were worried about the collective bargaining issue in our state. That is why we need to show ID. In the case of WI, if you can't afford an ID, the state will pay for it.

    July 7, 2011 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  18. Tony 140

    Race and Class Warfare. That's all they have left. Come on Bill, tell us when Hilary is going to challenge BHO. Are you waiting for his numbers to get below 35 before jumping in?

    July 7, 2011 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  19. Jeff

    As a Southerner I am very offended by this jerks comments. To equate what was going on in the South in the 1950's to what race relations are today is just stupid and someone should put some duct tape on Bill Clinton's mouth. In Georgia, we are concerned that non-citizens and people who vote multiple times might affect the outcome of our elections and that is not fair to anyone who legally votes. Showing ID to cast a vote is not Jim Crowe. What a jerk.

    July 7, 2011 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  20. Bob in Pa.

    Only an experienced liar could equate Jim Crow laws with proving your legitimacy to vote in a particular precinct
    By the Bill, tells us again what party enacted those Jim Crow laws.
    Thats right, it was the Democrats, the party of lies and deceit.

    July 7, 2011 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  21. snakew

    So what you are saying is that a person should be able to just walk in to the balloting station and say a name, any name. and be allowed to vote. That is Ridiculous. They must have some form of verifiable ID. What would you suggest?

    July 7, 2011 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  22. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Our youth will not allow themselves to be disinfranchised to vote or exercise their rights because they are a different generation of all races who love and support each other. There ain't no stopping them, no way no how.

    July 7, 2011 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  23. nobama

    You have to show an ID to open a bank account, to cash a check, to board an airplane, to rent equipment or furniture, to borrow certain items from the library.......are these acts of racism? Is it that difficult to get an ID? Why would you NOT want to get an ID? Perhaps Clinton can convince his friend Obama to free up some of that unspent stimulus money to pay for ID's for everyone whop needs them.'s easier to call anyone who disagrees with them a racist for polictial gain.

    July 7, 2011 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  24. BOB

    A new voter ID requirement was just signed into law by Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Caffee after it passed the Democrat controlled House and Democrat controlled senate. The bill was introduce by a democrat and had co-sponsors of both parties If we listen to Mr. Clinton and Ms Wasserman, we must believe the Rhode Island democrats are racists. Interesting how CNN missed this story.

    July 7, 2011 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  25. Chris

    Can a democrat make a speech with use the word race or the under of race. I mean really have to show an ID to vote is racist? Then, when you cash a check, or produce your license to a police officer, show an ID to get on a plane, show an ID to purchase a house is also racist. Come on!

    July 7, 2011 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
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