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. Dave T

    Why doesn't Bill Clinton just go away? And take Hilary with him. America is tired of the both of them.

    July 7, 2011 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  2. s~

    aw.. the good old stand by if you want to use the race card, the Jim Crow law.

    the degree in which the left have deluted the meaning of the word "racism" is sickening and shameful.

    July 7, 2011 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  3. Cj

    This has been a real concern of mine for several months after watching the 2010 elections , we have several GOP governors that are striping states of voting rights, union rights, and womens rights and people seem to be oblivious to it. They wanted to take out country back and they are , back to the dark ages.....wake up America , Dems are known as a progressive party for a reason.. Read some of the new voting laws and some new laws about controling womens rights and any normal person would have a great concern... This is not just a Democrat talking point , this is about freedoms we all are suppose to have!

    July 7, 2011 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  4. jeff

    The Tea Party would appear to be, at best, Libertarian–minimal government. At worst the Tea Party is the Confederacy Rising all over the Country with their States Rights vs. Federalist leanings. Maybe 42nd President Clinton's bringing forward Jim Crow will place the real focus on not only the disenfranchisement of the young but of any not of some wealth. This is a return to Jeffersonian politics of the landed. THIS is why studying history in school is important.

    July 7, 2011 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  5. John K.

    Typical liberal scare tactic. Democrats will are terrified that they will no longer be able to bring convicted felons and illegal aliens to the polling places to vote for their candidates.
    I have no problem identifying myself as a registered voter. If you do have a problem with this, perhaps you should go back to where you came from.

    July 7, 2011 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  6. s~

    what is wrong with asking for an ID before you can vote?

    July 7, 2011 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  7. Gary in WA

    OK for all you smart people. How do you recommend the government ensure that only those who are legally eligible to vote get to cast a ballot.

    July 7, 2011 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  8. Bill

    So Bill Clintion gets a pass for saying convicted felons are mostly African American and Hispanic? Why? Dems are not progressive unless progressive means skirting the law and general kaos. I wish I were a dem so I could vote in different states in the same election

    July 7, 2011 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  9. petercha

    Leave it to a liberal to whine about Jim Crow laws that were enacted in the 1800's. Geez.

    July 7, 2011 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  10. The Real Tom Paine

    John K.

    Typical liberal scare tactic. Democrats will are terrified that they will no longer be able to bring convicted felons and illegal aliens to the polling places to vote for their candidates.
    I have no problem identifying myself as a registered voter. If you do have a problem with this, perhaps you should go back to where you came from.

    @ John K.:

    Right, convicted felons and illegal aliens are such a big voter bloc. Can we include Duke Cunningham, Tom DeLay, Bob Ney and Rupert "Hacker" Murdoch in that group? I have no problem representing myself as a registered voter, either: what do you suggest as further proof, DNA? Patdowns? Body-cavity searches? After all, you know how clever those liberals are, since they all eat, breathe and sleep voter registration fraud.


    July 7, 2011 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  11. Enough is Enough

    We wouldn't want to keep the illegals from voting now would we.

    July 7, 2011 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  12. Rsprings

    Just another Democrat attempt to demonize Republicans.

    July 7, 2011 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  13. petercha

    So it seems that liberals would rather win votes dishonestly through voter fraud, than insist that all voters produce photo ID. Maybe that's because they know they can't win any other way.

    July 7, 2011 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  14. A True Centrist

    "to overturn a law that allowed convicted felons to vote after they completed their probation...Because most of them in Florida were African Americans and Hispanics and would tend to vote for Democrats, that's why."

    Wow, that is a blatant racist comment right there. If a Republican EVER said that, you liberals on this board would be going out of your mind. Instead, posters like B somehow interpret that Republicans are the racists from this article. Amazing! I don't always agree with Republicans but they are right on this issue. There's nothing wrong with ensuring people have the proper identification and are registered in the right state to vote.

    July 7, 2011 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  15. Fresno

    While Bill Clinton is capable of making important contributions to many discussions. Let us not forget his abilities also include very effective hyperbole. I can speak to the issue of where college students vote. Not all elections are national, there are important local issues that, that out of fairness, should be left to the permanent residents. This distinction is especially important in small college towns, where the student population is large, compared to that of the town. Students can register and cast absentee ballots where they legally reside, so they are not prevented from voting. This is a non issue, and injecting race into a discussion that includes in, is a red herring...and he knows it. Bill is a very smart guy, which is why he should be not cut any slack when he does things like this. It is no accident. He is simply being partisan, and I think, knowingly inaccurate.

    July 7, 2011 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  16. Bret

    He's an idiot. So we only want US citizens to vote- what is wrong with that?

    July 7, 2011 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  17. just a thought

    I was driving before I could vote, I had served in the military before I could vote, both huge resonsibilities. Even then there was the outcry that if we were old enough to die for our country we ought to be old enough to vote. There are other hard to solve problems with the voting system. I think that the homeless should be allowed to vote, but how are they to be leglally registered? As for felons, we need a reclassification of felons. [1st, 2nd and 3rd degree]There are some really stupid offences classified as felonies that should be only a distamenor (spelled wrong) For instance: if a law officer caught you relieving yourself in a public place, even though you took efforts to conceal yourself, it is a felony. Believe it or not, it is classified as $exual crime} With very few exceptions, treason being one, voting rights should be restored to some felons that have paid their dues.

    July 7, 2011 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  18. jamesnyc

    I don't necesarily agree that there should be "same day registration" that sounds like a potential red flag for ballot box stuffing and fraud. However, registration should be available for anyone with a legitmate ID of some kind or social security. A veteran homeless or not would have some kind of social security number and could use that. Not everyone should just walk off the street and be allowed to vote though. As for the felons, they committed the crime their right to vote is forfeited they shouldn't have done the crime. They should have taken their government classes more seriously.

    July 7, 2011 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  19. Double Take

    Funny how they never want to be reminded of the oppression that black minorities suffered under. The only way to avoid history repeating itself is to NOT FORGET.

    July 7, 2011 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  20. dogger

    Asking someone to prove his or her identity before voting is completely reasonable and should be a requirement in all states. The practice has been upheld by the Supreme Court. What is really objectionable is letting in millions of illegal aliens and giving them a path to citizenship and lots of free services so that they can become future members of the Democratic party.

    July 7, 2011 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  21. Peter s

    @Jamesnyc so it's okay to punish someone twice for the same mistake?

    July 7, 2011 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  22. Peter s

    Bravo !!!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." YOU ROCKS Brilliant thoughts

    July 7, 2011 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  23. That Guy

    Hmmm...Anyone care to look up the history of Jim Crow Laws? Which party supported and implemented them?

    July 7, 2011 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  24. Jason

    Are there any states that don't require you to show some sort of identification when you go vote? I don't believe there are. So what is wrong with having to show a state issued identification at the polling place? People are more than welcome to claim this is disenfranchising a certain age group or ethnicity but can you actually show HOW exactly they are being disenfranchised by this process? I have yet to hear a valid argument against this. Just wild claims by people such as Bill Clinton.

    July 7, 2011 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  25. Brad

    Clinton is absolutely correct on this. These laws are an explicit attempt to limit their opponents supporters from voting by targeting specific groups (like African or Mexican Americans). It's been going on for quite awhile and any supporter of these laws deserves to be labeled a bigot and a traitor.

    July 7, 2011 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
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