Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said on Sunday that he supported voter ID laws — but didn’t think Republicans should make the issue part of their campaign platform because it alienates black voters.
“I’m not really opposed to [voter ID laws]. I am opposed to it as a campaign theme,” Paul told CBS’ Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer. “Republicans, if you want to get African American votes, they think that this is suppression somehow and it’s a terrible thing.”
But contrary to Paul’s analysis, African-Americans are right to think voter ID laws mainly affect their communities. Laws mandating voters to show government identification disproportionately affect people of color and the poor, while reducing voter turnout. Those laws also carry racial tensions and reinforce stereotypes: A recent study showed that white Americans were more likely to support voter ID laws if they were shown pictures of African-Americans voting.
Republican-run states in particular have been lobbying for voting restrictions like reduced early voting times and voter ID laws, citing that such measures reduce voter fraud. But studies have shown that voter fraud is a non-issue: Voter fraud occurs at an infinitesimal rate, with only 13 credible in-person cases logged between 2000 and 2010.
Paul went on to say that restoring voting rights for ex-convicts should be given more attention than ID laws. “I want more people to vote, not less,” he explained. “The number one impediment to voting in our country right now, it’s having a previous conviction. That’s where the real voting problem is.”
But voter ID laws actually cause fewer people to vote. The Government Accountability Office reported that such laws suppress voter turnout. Kansas and Tennessee, which have tightened their voter ID laws, had a decreased voter turnout especially among black voters, according to the GAO report.
Paul expressed having “mixed feelings” about the matter, but emphasized that Republicans harping on voter ID laws on the campaign trail pushes needed votes away instead of steering them toward the polls. “The Republican Party brand sucks and so people don’t want to be a Republican and for 80 years, African-Americans have had nothing to do with Republicans,” Paul said during a campaign stop in Detroit last week.
On Sunday, he reaffirmed that stance, saying “Republicans have to get beyond this perception that they don’t want African-Americans to vote. I don’t think it’s true. I’m not saying it’s true. But by being for all of these things, it reinforces a stereotype that we need to break down.”