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Bill Clinton: GOP Voter Suppression Laws a Sign of Desperation | The Nation

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Ari Berman

Ari Berman

 On American politics and policy.

Bill Clinton: GOP Voter Suppression Laws a Sign of Desperation

At an event on Tuesday night organized by the Arkansas Democratic Party, former President Bill Clinton offered a preview of his prime-time speech at the Democratic Convention tomorrow. He defended Obama’s stimulus and healthcare plans, and ridiculed GOP efforts to blame Obama for the national debt, saying, “They built it.”

At the end of his speech, Clinton took aim at the GOP for passing laws across the country that will restrict the right to vote for minority, low-income, young and elderly voters, singling out the swing states of Pennsylvania and Ohio as the worst offenders. Said Clinton:

“Do you really want to live in a country where one party is so desperate to win the White House that they go around trying to make it harder for people to vote if they’re people of color, poor people or first generation immigrants?

“In Pennsylvania, where they passed all these voter ID requirements, the House Republican leader who passed it said it was one of the most important achievements because it will enable Governor Romney to defeat the president in Pennsylvania.

“In Ohio, they passed the whole nine yards. The problem was in Ohio you can actually put this stuff on the ballot pretty easily to overturn it. So they went back in—you gotta give it to Republicans, they’re good. They vetoed it, then they snuck in an end to advance voting. Then they allowed the counties—and every county in Ohio has an election commission of three Democrats and three Republicans—to decide if they were going to go around advance voting. The Democrats, we were for it. So in every county that was Republican, Democrats said ‘OK, we’ll have advance voting.’ And in every single county that is overwhelming Democratic, the Republicans voted against allowing advance voting.

“This is not complicated—America is becoming more diverse and younger and more vibrant. We’re younger than Europe, we’re younger than Japan and in twenty years we’ll be younger than China.”

And, as Clinton told student activists at the Campus Progress conference last year, the GOP is responding to that growing diversity not by courting minority voters but by making it harder for them to cast a ballot. Said Clinton in July 2011:

“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.…

“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.”

How successful Republicans are at this voter suppression effort will be one of the major factors that determines the outcome of the 2012 election.

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