Senator Who Owes Victory To Black Voters Still Supports Law That Makes Voting Harder For Them


After African American voters boosted Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) to a narrow victory over Tea Party favorite Chris McDaniel, many are calling for Cochran to thank his newfound supporters by backing efforts to reinstate the Voting Rights Act gutted by the Supreme Court last year. But so far, the senator seems unmoved by these calls and is sticking to his support of voter ID laws.

Derrick Johnson, president of the Mississippi NAACP, told HuffPost Live on Wednesday that they would pressure the senator to “support amending the Voting Rights Act, free of any conditions such as voter ID.”

“I think this is an opportunity for him to show some reciprocity for African-Americans providing a strong level of support for him,” Johnson said.

Cochran’s office declined to weigh in on the Voting Rights Act reboot debated in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, but his communications director, Chris Gallegos, suggested that Cochran does not see voter ID as a problem.

“It could be said that ballot access in Mississippi, with its new voter ID process, proved to be solid across the state on Tuesday,” Gallegos wrote in an email to ThinkProgress Thursday. He also pointed to Cochran’s statement praising the Supreme Court decision that struck down the section of the Voting Rights Act requiring Mississippi and other southern states to clear election law changes with the Justice Department.

Voter ID laws have been shown to target mainly low-income, non-white, and elderly voters who are less likely to have the required photo ID or the necessary documents to obtain one easily. About 513 Mississippians who went to vote in the June 3 primary lacked ID and voted via affidavit.

Meanwhile, McDaniel is crying voter fraud, though has not yet provided any evidence that illegal voting occurred. The state senator claimed on a conservative talk show Wednesday that 35,000 Cochran supporters were secretly Democrats. “Naturally sometimes it’s difficult to contest an election, obviously, but we do know that 35,000 Democrats crossed over,” McDaniel said. “And we know many of those Democrats did vote in the Democratic primary just three weeks ago which makes it illegal.”

McDaniel supporters also installed poll watchers to scrutinize voters who looked like they might be Democrats. There have been some reports of these poll watchers intimidating voters and demanding to know who they were voting for.

Efforts to restrict voting tend to be strongest in states with high minority turnout, research shows. After such a strong showing from black voters on Tuesday, Mississippi’s voting rights battle is likely only just beginning.