Hillary Clinton, in a speech Thursday on voting rights, called out four Republican presidential hopefuls — Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Rick Perry, and Chris Christie — for infringing the voting rights of Americans.
All four are present or former governors whose states, in a national partisan pattern, have curtailed voting rights — or in Republican terms, sought to “decrease voter fraud” — over the past several years.
In Texas, Perry signed into law a voter ID bill, enacted in 2011 and upheld last year, that requires prospective voters to show a photo ID. That includes a Texas driver’s license, a military ID, a passport, or even a gun license, but not a student ID — which Clinton noted in her reference to Perry.
Perry responded on Fox and Friends with an argument that may resonate with many Americans: We already have to have ID for so many things today, so why is voting any different?
“I think it makes sense to have a photo ID to be able to vote,” he said on Friday morning. “When I got on the airline to come up here yesterday, I had to show my photo ID.”
Ted Cruz, the Republican Texas senator running for president, has made similar statements. A national ID, rather than a state one, would be one solution, but civil liberties groups are against it, saying it could lead to further surveillance of citizens. In the wake of the debate over renewal of the PATRIOT Act, that is a salient question.
Allegations of vote fraud historically have played across ideological lines. Low-income, young, and minority voters are often those most disenfranchised by strict voter ID laws, but they are also the most likely to vote Democratic. Some of the rebuttals suggest that Clinton’s remarks urging broader registration and more early voting merely represent an effort to garner more votes for herself.
Responding directly to Clinton with characteristic bombast, Christie said, “She just wants an opportunity to commit greater acts of voter fraud,” adding that he “was not worried about her opinion.”
Clinton had criticized Christie for vetoing an in-person early voting bill in New Jersey, which would have opened polls daily for15 days leading up to an election. Such a law would be too costly to implement, said Christie, and anyway New Jersey already allows early absentee ballot in-person voting.
Clinton also called for an opt-in system of voting, or universal registration, under which all citizens would be registered to vote automatically when they turn 18.
Her proposals are quite bold, but they follow guidelines set forth by the president’s bipartisan commission on voting, which also include updated and streamlined technology.
Democrats aligned with Clinton have sued several states, including Ohio and Walker’s Wisconsin, with additional challenges expected in Georgia, Nevada, and Virginia. Some Democratic strategists believe that even if the suits are unsuccessful they can still fire up minority voters, who are overwhelmingly likely to vote Democratic.
Jeb Bush’s home state, Florida, has long been under scrutiny for its obsession with weeding out supposed voter fraud — despite only three arrests made between 2008 and 2011. The Sunshine State — notorious for voting flubs and ballot-counting shenanigans in the 2000 election — has tampered with voting rights and regulations so much that nonpartisan civic groups like the League of Women Voters have come out against these machinations, and the Justice Department has intervened.
But Florida is not the only state where the Justice Department has sought to impose remedies. In Wisconsin, Walker championed a 2011 law that required voters to use one of eight forms of ID — but disallowed any from University of Wisconsin campuses. Although the law was challenged in court several times, the Supreme Court ultimately upheld it.
John Kasich, the Republican governor of Ohio, signed legislation that cut the state’s early voting period and ended initiatives where citizens could register and vote on the same day, as well as mailing absentee ballots to all registered voters — a method almost 1.3 million residents used in 2012.
Kasich, who was not named by Clinton and has not officially announced he is running for president, denounced her comments on Fox News, calling them “ridiculous” and “silly” — and pointed out that New York, the state that elected Clinton as a senator, does not have early voting while Ohio does.
New York does indeed have strict guidelines, but as senator, Clinton supported many versions of the Count Every Vote Act, which would mandate early voting in every state. Thirty-three states plus the District of Columbia allow some form of early voting, according to the National Conference of State Legislators.
Early voting remains extremely popular, although debate persists about its effect on voter participation.
Screenshot: Hillary Clinton called out Chris Christie, among other Republicans, for laws restricting constituents’ rights to vote. (C-SPAN via YouTube)