On Face the Nation this Sunday, Colin Powell, former Secretary of State under President George W. Bush, warned his fellow Republicans that the continuing push to restrict voting rights is going to “backfire” and harm the Republican Party:
These kinds of procedures that are being put in place to slow the process down, and make it likely that fewer Hispanics and African Americans might vote I think is going to backfire, because these people are going to come out and do what they have to do in order to vote and I encourage that.
Powell went on to describe just how damaging these laws may be as the country’s demographics shift:
Here’s what I say to my Republican friends: The country is becoming more diverse. Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, African Americans are going to constitute a majority in a generation. You say you want to reach out, you say you want to have a new message, you say you want to see if you can bring some of these voters to the Republican side. This is not the way to do it. The way to do it is to make it easier to vote and then give them something to vote, they can believe it. It’s not enough to say just we have to have a new message. We have to have a substance to that new message.
Voting rights were an integral demand of the March on Washington 50 years ago, but the Republican Party has been pushing a variety of restrictions at the state level and are now emboldened by a Supreme Court ruling invalidating part of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). Powell remarked that these state laws “in some ways makes it a little bit harder to vote,” such as requiring ID, restricting voting hours, and making it harder for students to cast a ballot.
Since the Supreme Court decision that struck down the section of the VRA that forced states with histories of disenfranchisement to get clearance from the federal government on changes to voting, at least six states have renewed their efforts to pass voting restrictions, including voter ID measures, redrawing districts so that minority voting blocks could have their power weakened, and others. North Carolina became the first to enact a law, with a measure that some have described as “the worst voter suppression law” in the country. It requires strict voter ID to cast a ballot, reduces the number of early voting days by a week, eliminates same-day voter registration during early voting, and makes other severe changes. Powell previously warned that North Carolina’s law is the kind that “turns people away” from the Republican Party.
While proponents of these measures purport to be worried about rampant voter fraud, on Sunday Powell remarked, “Nothing substantiates that, there isn’t widespread abuse.” In fact, zero of the 17 suspected fraud cases in Boulder, CO were found to exist, and there have been many failures for those attempting to find evidence of widespread voter fraud. A person is 39 times more likely to be struck by lightning than to commit fraud.
Voting restrictions aren’t the only way Republicans are screwing up their effort to reach out to minority voters, however. They’ve voted to deport DREAMers, boycotted Spanish-language TV, argued for self-deportation, reacted poorly to the Trayvon Martin ruling, and used racially insensitive language, among other things.