Speaking yesterday at the annual Campus Progress convention, former President Bill Clinton called out the GOP’s state by state efforts to make it harder to vote — a war on voting designed almost entirely to reduce the number of Democrats who cast ballots:
I can’t help thinking, since we just celebrated the Fourth of July and we’re supposed to be a country dedicated to liberty, that one of the most pervasive political movements going on outside Washington today is the disciplined, passionate, determined effort of Republican governors and legislators to keep most of you from voting next time. There has never been in my lifetime, since we got rid of the poll tax and all the other Jim Crow burdens on voting, the determined effort to limit the franchise that we see today.
Getting rid of same-day registration. Some states getting rid of all advanced voting. Governor of Florida proposed to reverse his Republican predecessor’s signing of a bill that gave people the right to vote when they got out of prison and they’d finished they’re probation period, even if they didn’t have a pardon — that’s one of the most important things we can do. Why should we disenfranchise people forever once they pay their price? Cause most of them in Florida were African Americans and Hispanics and would tend to vote for Democrats, that’s why.
Why do we want to get rid of same day registration? Why has New Hampshire made it almost impossible for college students who come from other states but live in New Hampshire most of the year to vote there? Why is all this going on? This is not rocket science. They are trying to make the 2012 electorate look more like the 2010 electorate than the 2008 electorate.
Clinton is exactly right to question why anyone who professes a love of liberty could work so passionately to prevent Americans from exercising their most sacred right to vote, and the examples he cites are just a small taste of the GOP’s pervasive effort to keep people from going to the polls. Numerous GOP state legislatures rammed through “voter ID” laws, which disenfranchise thousands of elderly, disabled, and low-income voters. Republicans typically justify these voter disenfranchisement laws by claiming that they are necessary to combat voter fraud at the polls, but in-person voter fraud is only slightly more common than unicorns. A recent Supreme Court decision upholding a voter ID law was only able to cite one example of in-person voter fraud in the last 143 years.
Similarly, Republicans declared war on campaign finance regulations intended to allow candidates without massive corporate or other wealthy donor support to still compete fairly in an election. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) gutted his state’s public financing system for candidates to pay for a voter disenfranchisement law. And a 5–4 Supreme Court decision just declared laws enabling publicly financed candidates to defend themselves against unlimited corporate attack ads unconstitutional.
It’s much easier for the GOP to win the game, after all, if they can make it impossible for the other team’s players to even take the field.