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. Ed

    How does making sure one is a citizen and therefore eligible to vote, somehow constitute racism? Is it because democrats want to bolster their votes with dead people, illegal immigrants, and felons (all of which they have been proved to do before?)

    There is nothing wrong with making sure a person doesn;t vote 800 times in one day! There is nothing wrong with making sure only live people vote. There is nothing wrong with making sure people vote in only ONE state!

    July 7, 2011 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  2. BlackPanthers2020

    And yes republicans are setting themselves up to rig the coming elections , because in all reality they know they can't when in a fair election what do they do ? Convince the Supreme Court to allow corporations to donate unlimited amounts of monies to our election process , enact laws to prevent minorities from voting , attack unions because they know thats a democratic voting block..........................if anyone can't see what the republican party is doing , then you are truely living in a bubble or your part of this racist grand scheme to keep the RACIST republican party............and if the show fit's wear it.......................

    July 7, 2011 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  3. T


    "The 2008 elections were riddled with voter fraud. Did you ever hear of ACORN?"
    You are foolish.......this is not true this was a game the the REP was playing and they won. ACORN had their problems but not like you say......another way to stop voter from voting. When will the game stop and some people stop believing everthing the hear.

    you got to much time on your hands

    July 7, 2011 10:58 am at 10:58 am |

    You tell 'em Bill. Darn Rethuglicans will stop at nothing to capture the White House in 2012! If they do, God help the poor and middle class. This has nothing to do with voter fraud. They can't win any other way. The people have their hypocritical number. Obama 2012!!

    July 7, 2011 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  5. ThinkAgain - The REAL One

    @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."

    Riiiight, Republicans are paragons of virtue and goodness ...

    July 7, 2011 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  6. Joseph

    The intimidation is there: voter registration laws have penalties, and other than being turned away (which was the primary result of the Jim Crow laws), they could be jailed for "attempted voter fraud" if they show up and try to use "unacceptable" identification. Might be safer to just stay at home, Hmm?

    July 7, 2011 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  7. Dave Harris

    While it might have been true years ago that the more marginal people could be discouraged from voting by making it less convenient, it remains to be seen whether this applies to Democrats today. Republicans may find that it is their own supporters, the demented elderly, the ignorant, the hyperreligious, the bigots, who can't be bothered to vote, since they hate the country anyway.

    July 7, 2011 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  8. Hockeyn109

    To eliminate voter fraud, a government ID is required. Get off their lazy butts and get one. Every state issues a non-driving state issued ID if you don't drive and don't have a driver's license. Get over it.

    July 7, 2011 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  9. Busted2010

    Republicans have zero morals, this is just classic republicanism: “Either way, such rhetoric is out of bounds.” This coming from the party who calls our president a nazi and communist. Please give me a break, when will those who blindly follow republicans get tired of this?

    July 7, 2011 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  10. geckopelli

    Florida is a pit of GOP corruption.
    If you go there, bring weapons and bribe money.

    July 7, 2011 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  11. ThinkAgain

    Funny how the folks on the right love to cite ACORN as an example of "voter fraud," thereby proving their ignorance beyond a shadow of a doubt regarding how elections work in this country.

    Groups like ACORN register voters; those registrations are then turned over to the state's Secretary of State for verification, which has the authority to put (or not) those voters on the rolls.

    If a registration is fraudulent, then the voter never makes it to the roll and therefore cannot vote.

    So a group can gather all the registrations it wants; that doesn't necessarily result in all those registrants being able to vote.

    Make sense? If it doesn't, I suggest you spend some of your computer time going to your state's Secretary of State Web site and do a little research.

    July 7, 2011 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  12. Mephistopholes

    I'm from Illinois where the Dead outvote the living and I'm totally in support of moves to curb voter fraud. Voter fraud disenfranchises me by giving Party stooges the ability to nullify my vote.

    It doesn't take much effort at all to get the credentials to vote. The same people who have no difficulty signing up for Social Security Benefits, Welfare Benefits, Food Stamps, Heating Assistance should not be able to complain that it is too hard to sign up to vote.

    We are decades past Jim Crow and I think it is irresponsible of our retired President to suggest that by making sure people demonstrate that they are voting only once and in the right district that somehow that equates with Jim Crow.

    July 7, 2011 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  13. Dan LeMieux

    In the 1870's & 80's we had the likes of the James Gang , Dalton Gang , Billy the Kid etc., in the 1920's & 30's we had Al Copone , Baby Face Nelson , Bonnie & Clyde etc., today we have the republican pary , all in the same boat.

    July 7, 2011 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  14. Enzo

    Showing a valid ID is somehow disenfranchising blacks, poor whites & latinos? Wow, I didn't know these groups were too stupid to go down to the DMV and get an ID, but apparently they are.

    July 7, 2011 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  15. ThinkAgain

    The GOP is targeting students for voter disenfranchisement ... guess they're afraid of people who can actually think. Makes sense, given that you have to really be brain-dead to still believe that "trickle-down" economics works; that giving more tax cuts to the rich will result in job growth here in the US; that de-regulation results in a healthier economy; etc., etc., etc.

    All of Republican economic, military and foreign policies are PROVEN FAILURES. Yep, you don't want to think about THAT too long ....

    July 7, 2011 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  16. Peter s

    Bravo sniffit! I can't say more, although I will add that, ACORN was disbanded on dubious charges got on false pretex, infact the ACORN people were wrongly treated and the real culprit took credit for destroying them. Look, if the media didn't stand with Shirley Sherood she could have been treated the same way. Wake up America and say NO to Karl Rove,Breitbart's and co they are selling democracy through the back door and ushering in plutocracy through the main!!! Ladies and gentlemen before long we will be singing loyalty pledge to Dick Armey, Karl Rove, and the Koch brothers!!

    July 7, 2011 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  17. Paul1st

    Clinton is taking on the issues related to eligibility of individuals to vote which, while seemingly simple, can be complex. Creating unnecessary barriers to make it more complex for certain voters was the (successful) goal of Jim Crow laws. All laws that mandate administrative rules for voting eligibility need to be evaluated to make sure they are not intentionally or unintentionally disenfranchising any voter group.

    In the meantime, if the Republicans really are concerned about the integrity of elections, they should sponsor legislation to limit corporate and union funding of campaigns.

    July 7, 2011 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  18. EdG

    Okay, let me get this straight; requiring voters to register prior to election day and supplying data to insure they are legal citizens is a BURDEN? Why? Regarding "young" voters, I'll bet they have no problems getting to the mall or the latest night club or parties. As for the "economically disadvantaged", I imagine they find a way down to the local social services to apply for whatever benefits for which they are eligible. Sounds like a pile of crap to me. On the other hand, registering and voting at the same time encourages fraud. I don't care what race (including white) you are, or your gender, sexual preference, religion, or political views you have, if you're too stupid or lazy to register prior to election day, you shouldn't be ALLOWED to vote.

    July 7, 2011 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  19. Kana

    Convicted felons who have completed all conditions of their sentence should not be denied the right to vote. provided their right to vote has been restored.
    In regards to students, they should vote in the district where they hold a legal residence. If that means traveling back home to vote in person so be it. They always have the option of filling out an absentee ballot.

    July 7, 2011 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  20. Frank

    Very typical of the Dem party. I'm surprised he also didn't mention throwing grandma off of a cliff. That seems to be another favorite scare and hate tactic.

    July 7, 2011 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  21. Anonymous

    Thank goodness some attention is being paid to this , I have read some about what the GOP has done since the 2010 elections , the voting laws , education and womens rights are being drug through the dirt and no one seems to notice. We are going backwards not forward and it is being done on the down low by the GOP . Dems are known as progressive for a reason and now the GOP slogan 'take out country back" we know what they meant....back to the dark ages!

    July 7, 2011 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  22. the_dude

    Anyone too stupid to have any type of photo id shouldn't be voting. They should be rounded up and shot.

    July 7, 2011 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  23. Inrealityhere

    He isn't called Slick Willie for no reason. Clinton is just trying to fire up the youngsters because he knows every vote is needed to keep his cronies afloat. I hope these young voters realize, by now, that they made a huge mistake when they followed the pied piper and voted for the hopey-changey Marxist Obama. Hitler loved using the youth for his wacko cause, also.

    July 7, 2011 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  24. Aaron

    Stop comparing voting to buying alcohal. One is a right and one is a priveledge. If you are a registered voter then you are registered, end of story. As far as illegal immigrants voting and voter fraud, show me one example of proven voter fraud or illegal immigrants voting! You can't because it either doesn't happen at all, or in such a limiteded capacity that it makes little to no difference what so ever. The facts are the Republican party has a long history of manipulating who can vote and where and how to disenfranchise voters asnd areas that would traditionally vote democrat to make themselves more successful. Both sides gerrymander and that should stop as well, but it is republicans that talk about further restictions on the voting "population" that are Jim Crow esque in their ability to hit a certain group the hardest.

    July 7, 2011 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  25. The Real Tom Paine


    You were making a valid point until you slipped into the lazy young people-going-to-the-mall, and the standard welfare slam. you also don't say how registering and voting at the same time encourages fraud: any examples that don't involve ACORN ( which were disproven)? Ideally, people would register to vote when the turn 18 and use absentee ballots when out of the district, but we know that does not always happen. You just sound like someone who believes whatever pile of crap is flung at you by FOX because its the easiest to swallow.

    July 7, 2011 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
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