ThinkProgress filed this report from a campaign event in Onawa, IA
Former GOP House Speaker and current presidential candidate Newt Gingrich walked back his support for poll tests Friday, just a day after reiterating support for making young Americans pass an American history test in order to gain voting rights.
In a brief interview at a campaign stop, ThinkProgress asked Gingrich about his comments the day before when he said, “it wouldn’t be bad to have a test for young Americans before they can vote.” Gingrich told us that he blamed the American education system for failing to teach American history, but he seemed to walk back his earlier support for poll tests, saying we don’t need to create a test for young people:
WALDRON: In order to vote, like a generic history test for new citizens and young people? Can you just kind of describe how that would work?
GINGRICH: You do have a test now for new citizens. I’m just making the point, not that we ought to create a test for young people, but that every young person who graduates from school ought to know American history, and all too often now adays the schools don’t teach you anymore.
WALDRON: So the problem’s more with the education system as opposed to —
GINGRICH: Yes, it’s the education system. The principle is that everybody should know, — every American should know American history because that’s what defines us as a country.
Gingrich first floated the idea of testing American citizens before they could vote last week and reiterated his support at a town hall in Marshalltown, IA, Thursday. His clarification Friday doesn’t seem to reflect the support he gave the idea just 24 hours earlier when speaking to a crowd at another campaign event.
Testing voters at the polls has a unique place in American history, as it was one of the main tactics employed to prevent blacks from voting until the passage of the 1964 and 1965 Civil Rights Acts. As ThinkProgress reported, Florida Congressman Allen West (R) dismissed Gingrich’s suggestions, saying poll tests were something “my parents had to deal with.”
As for Gingrich, poll tests is just the latest in a list of policies the candidate has changed his mind about, joining cap and trade, the individual mandate, American intervention in Libya, and the Ryan Medicare plan, to name a few.