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Former President Bill Clinton lambasted Republican efforts to restrict voting rights in battleground states across the country at a meeting of progressive college students in the capital on Wednesday, comparing them, as Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz did recently, to Jim Crow laws that prevented blacks from voting until 1965.

“There has never been in my lifetime, since we got rid of the poll tax and all the Jim Crow burdens on voting, the determined effort to limit the franchise that we see today,” Clinton said to the Campus Progress annual conference.

The laws in question restrict or eliminate early voting and late (or same-day) registration, all of which clearly benefited Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign.

Indeed, Obama won the early vote in several battleground states by a healthy enough margin that losing the vote on election day was no big deal.

“Why is all of 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 added.

Florida Governor Rick Scott’s move to block felons from voting was especially frustrating for the former president.

“Why should we disenfranchise people forever once they’ve paid their price?” Clinton posed to the audience. “Because most of them in Florida were African-Americans and Hispanics and would tend to vote for Democrats. That’s why.”

Indeed, it is clear that early voting–and voting on Sundays (after church)–mostly boosts minority, and especially black, turnout.

Republicans, of course, claim they are simply trying to block voter fraud and protect the “integrity” of elections. But by imposing obstacles on the least represented groups of America’s electorate, they are doing their best to keep the electorate small, old, and white.

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