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. leehawks

    With all the fraud and corruption that ACORN inflicted on voter rolls all over the country it is ridiculous that the voter rolls cannot be cleaned up, cleared of dead people and proper ID must be required to register and vote. Most states offer a free picture ID so people without drivers licenses can vote. This is not racist at all. If you maintain that it is, then minorities should start suing that it is racist to present ID to cash checks, to get Social security, welfare, etc. Surely voting is more important than all those things. Society will continue to break down if that were to happen.

    Dems just want to increase the numbers of fraudulent voters. That's why they want Puerto Rico to be a state, why they want amnesty for illegal aliens and why they want felons to regain their vote. It is also why George Soros and his fellow demons have the SOS project to help elect progressive Secretaries of State in every state to swing any close elections to the democrats/progressives. (See Al Franken senate election!!!) Dems scream racist so much they have emptied the word of all meaning. They are devious underhanded scumbags. The RINOS are not much better. 2012 will prove the conservative age is here. Thank GOD cause it's not a second too soon!!!

    July 7, 2011 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  2. Democrat Class Warfare - Destroying the economy, destroying the country

    Voter fraud disenfranchises LEGAL VOTERS. Democrats have been supporting voter fraud through their support of ACORN over the years. MILLIONS was funneled to this crime organization by the Democrats to steal elections. When an illegal votes, YOUR VOTE is NEGATED. YOU LOSE YOUR VOTE!! Wake up America!!!

    July 7, 2011 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  3. Dean

    Civic minded people will register when they become eligible to vote and not want to do it on their way to vote. Proper id should be required for registering to vote and for voting (unless you live in Chicago).
    You should have to register in the district where your id says you live.

    July 7, 2011 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  4. Pete

    Ummm, did anyone notice that the state of Rhode Island just enacted into law this very same kind of bill? Look it up. It was Rhode Island's Democratic legislature that passed a law requiring an ID to vote beginning next year and a photo ID in 2014. The bill's Senate sponsor was an African American Democrat, who said it was prompted by reported incidents of voter fraud. The measure was signed by Independent Governor Lincoln Chafee. So, Bubba, it ain't just Republicans after all.

    July 7, 2011 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  5. Tom

    The system worked, Acorn was caught and they will be punished. The comment was made, "Why don't some of these people study the issues instead of just voting?" This is a free country, you don't have to study the issues. You can vote with your heart or just vote for whatever reason. A valid ID is required. Republicans think they are this higher class of individuals and are just so intellectual. They would love to make it so that lower class citizens and young adults could not vote.

    July 7, 2011 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  6. Dean

    Since elected officials determine where taxes are spent perhaps we should limit voting to only those who pay taxes and don't live off the government teat.
    Bet we could have a balanced budget then.

    July 7, 2011 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  7. The Real Tom Paine

    @ Jeff:

    As an American, I'm offended by your comments. In order to vote, you need to sign in at a polling station and prove with our signature that you are who you say you are. You cannot vote twice, and non-citzens cannot register, period. People are already showing ID when they vote because they have to sign their name, so this is a non-starter. All the instances of so-called voter fraud the GOP keeps screaming about have never survived close examniation because they are FALSE ACCUSATIONS, I would love to see evidence to the contracry that is not linked to FOX News, Andrew Breitbart, or the rest of the Right-wing propaganda Cabal. Its obvious to me that many people on here have either never voted, or vote so rarely they don't even know you have to sign in, and your signature is checked by the workers at the polling station: NO ONE is suggesting, as Snakew is, that just anyone can stroll in, lie about who they are, and vote. Ae for Mr. Clinton's comments, he's simply making an observation that this is a deliberate attempt to disenfranchise young voters by creating bureaucratic obstacles. Funny, I always thought the GOP was for getting government out of our lives, and here they are, yet again, interfering with a citizen's right to vote.

    July 7, 2011 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  8. ALAN J

    President Clinton and Debbie Shultz are both right! These are efforts by Repudican Governors and Legislatures to go back to Jim Crow laws in this country. But I don't fault them, I fault we the American people if we sit idlely by and allow them to do it. I am 51 and I have never seen this country this bad before, all because we elected a Black President! Well get over it, like it or not he is President and he's uses his head for more than a HAT RACK!

    July 7, 2011 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  9. Priori

    Why not invoke Jim Crow if you're a frail ex-prez looking for mindless applause from the old base? Yep, if you want attention, just raise the white-sheeted poltergeist of an extreme past, and yell scary words! We all know about the veracity and personal integrity of Mr. Clinton. Genuinely politically effective, yes. Genuine integrity and veracity, well... that's a completely different matter.

    July 7, 2011 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  10. Sniffit


    I don't have a driver's license and I can still drive all I want anyway. Why can't I keep voting in as many places as I want?"

    Very cute...did I strike a nerve for you, crybaby? As soon as you guys can produce the FACTS, EVIDENCE AND HISTORICAL RECORDS indicating that it is a rampant, pervasive problem that people are voting who (a) do not have some form of an identification card AND (b) were not supposed to be voting in the first place (not a citizen, etc.), then you'll have a legitimate basis for demanding that voter ID laws, despite them having been proven to have a disparate, vote-suppressing effect on the poor and minorities. Fact is, that evidence and historical record DOES NOT EXIST. This has been throoughly debunked. The voter ID laws have no RATIONAL RELATION to a COMPELLING PUBLIC INTEREST because the bogeyman against which they are supposedly intended to defend DOES NOT is a fabrication, a spectre feared due to the purposeful dissemination of minsinformation and demagoguery...and yet these laws still have a negative impact on society by suppressing legitimate votes. The supposed good is outweighted by the negative impact because the former is the product of fevered imaginations while the latter is real, measured and proven.

    July 7, 2011 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  11. Rebecca

    How about we make voting machines more accurate and uniform across the board instead of denying or making it increasingly difficult for people to vote? Just a suggestion.

    July 7, 2011 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  12. PRWIII

    The race card will always be played until racists no longer exists. Get used to it...

    July 7, 2011 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  13. T

    No need to play the race card and anyone can see what is going on......he is right. . Seems like we are going back to the days when............It's all about making Obama a one TERM president and this is wrong. This is racism and people true feelings are coming out. Nobama you can't think outside the box. this is racist for gain. But all of this will back fire.....DEVILS get behind us...... You just can't contiune doing people like this......

    July 7, 2011 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  14. Lynne

    It only hurts because it's true! Democrat Class Warfare you need to stop watching Fox news and start watching a variety of new shows.....there is actually very little voter fraud out there!!!! Try thinking for your self...use some critical thinking skills and stop being a fox news sheep for one!

    July 7, 2011 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  15. Sniffit

    "The 2008 elections were riddled with voter fraud. Did you ever hear of ACORN?"

    No they weren't. Many REGISTRATIONS wsere found to be fraudulent and ACORN had several levels of protection against that which helped sort them out and point out which REGISTRATIONS were likely to be fraudulent. See, when ACORN hired people to obtain REGISTRATIONS, they sent them out to do so, but then ALSO had an obligation, WHICH THEY MET, to identify registrations that were likely fraudulent and then sort them away from the ones that were OK...i.e., registrations that were all in the same handwriting, registrations for Mickey Mouse, etc. Those got sorted into piles basically marked "likely fraud." On the other hand, THERE IS NO EVIDENCE THAT ACORN'S WORK RESULTED IN ANY FRAUDULENT VOTES BEING CAST. NONE. Several red states tried to prove it and bring suits and they ALL FAILED MISERABLY.

    July 7, 2011 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  16. ZykPysk

    It is quite refreshing to see how blindly racist liberals are when reading comments here. Jim Crow? Really? Its called LAWS. For a country to function they must be followed. If you can't abide by them then you don't get the benefits of normal citizens. Felons getting the right to vote? What? You're 8 and you want to drive a car? Sure give this kid a license! What's that? You're blind but want to fly an airplane full of people? Sure, get this get certified to fly we can't let regulations get in the way of being ignorantly tolerant!! Thats insane. There is a reason its a FELONY. Same day registration? Thats nuts. How can a person register to vote and vote in the same day and actually know what they are doing? That is open to so much fraud its insane. Liberalism hasn't become about being more tolerant, its become about being insane. And liberals wonder why they are broke, not advancing in life, etc etc. Its not a republicans fault (psst it is your own). Responsibility, the evil racist arch enemy of Liberals.

    July 7, 2011 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  17. Ed Texas

    Another example of the GOP trying to take away American's rights. Keep the minorities and young out of the voting process and you have a lot of grumpy old people (GOP) voting for their candidates.

    July 7, 2011 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  18. Rick CT

    The last time Bill played the race card was in 2008 in South Carolina where he cost Hillary the Presidency. Why listen to him playing the race card now?

    July 7, 2011 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  19. Pete H

    I did 21 years in the military. I had to register to vote at my "home of record" (where I lived at the time I joined the service). I voted absentee. There was no problem. It was so convenient that I still vote absentee. The only things keeping the allegedly "young, poor, and monorities" from voting are the "young, poor, and minorities." I suggest all you "young, poor, and minorites" find out what the voting laws really are iand how they pertain to you instead of listening to someone who's just trying to stir the bee hive. America has become the land of the free, and the home of the whiners. Very sad.

    July 7, 2011 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  20. volksmaniac

    Same day registration , ex-cons given the right to vote , no ID requirements to vote ? Don't these kind of ideas just add to the probability that the process will be corrupted ? Opposing them is not only far from Jim Crow policies , but the sensible ,common sense thing to do . I don't want my vote negated by the vote of someone who is not properly registered , or has not provided proof that he is who he says he is . I am however still undecided about allowing ex -felons to re-acquire their right to vote . I'll have to get back to you on that one .

    July 7, 2011 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  21. Anonymous

    Nobody is keeping them from the polls, what a joke, some people just always think they're the victim.

    July 7, 2011 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  22. Benjamin

    Don't you love how he tries to flip it on Clinton with the comment about the Democrat's "Abysmal record of tax hikes"? Those tax hikes are on owners of corporate jets and people who make over $500,000 a year!

    July 7, 2011 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  23. rapierpoint

    The likening to Jim Crowe is over-the-top and totally unnecessary.
    College students – what's to stop them from voting at the college and voting absentee wherever their residency is? It makes no sense for an out-of-state student to vote in local elections. That's like letting any New Yorker that happens to be in California for some time on a job to vote in California elections and New York elections.
    Convicted felons – I think it's interesting that Clinton is essentially saying that more convicted felons are Democrat. Boy, a lot of mileage can be made with a statement like that. 🙂
    Same Day registration – I don't see any problem with it as long as the person in question can establish their bonafides on the spot and they can be verified.
    ID at the polling place – Seriously, what is wrong with establishing the identity of the person that's voting? If a person can go to the trouble of registering to vote, they can go to the trouble of getting id.

    July 7, 2011 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  24. SFC B

    Al Gore should have been elected President after Bill Clinton, what happened the election was stolen by the Republican's. Then the election in 2010 a lot of you voted for the Republicans, and look what happened to the teachers with there rights in collective bargining rights. Wake up people.

    July 7, 2011 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  25. KeninTexas

    The proposals that are mentioned are very reasonable and certainly not "Jim Crow" type laws. For instance it's mentioned, "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." This should be done. Otherwise, you have college towns that can have their councils loaded with student protesters who have no concern with the community, only the current fad in politics. Who cares, they will be gone in a couple of years.
    Next is "regulations preventing same-day registration and specifically referenced Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott's move to overturn a law that allowed convicted felons to vote after they completed their probation." Again, common sense should prevail. Same day registration would lead to the potential of very serious fraud. I'm not as concerned with the felons being able to vote after they complete their probation. They have done their time and served their punishment, so perhaps they should be allowed to vote.
    The bottom line is this uproar is a political stunt by many Democrats to smear their opponents. Just the same o' same o' that they keep doing. I wish they would try to represent the people's best interest instead of their own political interests. Of course, the same could be said for all of the politicians.

    July 7, 2011 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
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