Now, you could argue that Republican lawmakers in these states "pulled the race card" when they enacted their voter ID legislation over bipartisan, biracial alternatives. You could argue that S.C. State Rep Alan Clemmons pulled the race card when he indulged the bigotry of one of his constituents. You could even argue that the federal courts "pulled the race card" when they struck down the Texas measures as discriminatory. But blasting Bill Clinton for "pulling the race card" on voting rights, after all these cases have come to court, is like blasting the guy who comes late to dinner for eating all the hors d'oeuvres.
The title of Fund's piece refers to the brief statement Clinton made last night, a statement followed by a rousing ovation, during the waning moments of his nomination speech for Barack Obama. Here's is Fund's first paragraph:
In his speech last night, Bill Clinton shamelessly played the race card
in an attack on voter-ID laws. He veered from a discussion of the
economy to say "If you want every American to vote and you think it's
wrong to change voting procedures just to reduce the turnout of younger,
poorer, minority and disabled voters, you should support Barack Obama."
Clinton here was referring to the dozens of state laws, enacted by Republicans since 2010, which seek, in the name of preventing voter fraud, to require registered voters to obtain new state ID cards. For some voters, the burden of obtaining these new identification cards is minor. For many, however, the burden of obtaining these cards is legally significant. Anyone who has read the opinion in Texas v. Holder, or who has read the testimony in South Carolina v. Holder, or who has followed the Pennsylvania litigation, or who is paying attention in Ohio, understands what the enforcement of these laws would mean to dispossessed voters.
in attacking efforts to combat voter fraud couldn't have come at a more ironic
time. Just yesterday, a Democratic state legislator in Clinton's native
Arkansas pled guilty along with his father, a West Memphis police officer, and
a West Memphis city councilman to a conspiracy to commit voter fraud.
representative Hudson Hallum was part of a conspiracy to bribe voters in three
separate elections in 2011.
"In a nation
in which every person's vote matters, protecting the integrity of the electoral
process from those who seek to win office by cheating the system is critical,"
assistant U.S. attorney Jane Duke said in a statement released by her office.
Attempts to steal votes "have the devastating effect of eroding public
confidence in elected officials and disenfranchising voters."
say that two campaign workers for Hallum assisted voters in filling out
absentee ballots and were guilty of "actually completing absentee ballots in
some instances without regard to the voter's actual candidate choice." In some
cases, voters were given money in exchange for surrendering control of their
ballots. Ballots for Hudson's opponent were also destroyed.
At one point,
Hallum told Philip Wayne Carter, the city councilman, that "We need to use that
black limo and buy a couple cases of some cheap vodka and whiskey to get people
See what's just happened? Fund is using an example of one kind of voter fraud to undercut Clinton's point about the need to protect voting rights. But, as Fund surely knows from his research on the topic, it's a case of apples and oranges. The ID laws that Fund is defending, and which Clinton criticized, aren't designed to stop vote-buying cases -- and they won't. Don't take my word for it. Take the word of S.C. State Sen. George "Chip" Campsen III, a Republican who testified last month at the federal trial over his own state's voter ID law. Here's the Associated Press account of Sen. Campsen's testimony:
morning testimony, state Sen. George "Chip" Campsen III cited
examples of fraud that he took into consideration while drafting early versions
of South Carolina's law. These included vote buying, voter rolls indicating a
woman who showed up at the polls had already voted, and press reports of voters
being registered in both South Carolina and North Carolina.
questioning from Justice Department attorney Anna Baldwin, Campsen, a
Republican, said the examples he gave did not involve the type of fraud that
requiring photo identification would address.
of the examples you gave in your testimony involved incidents of
impersonation?" Baldwin asked.
Campsen answered. He also said he could not find cases of voter impersonation
in South Carolina, but added that the state lacks the tools to root them out.
Next, Fund asserts:
been similarly sloppy in his attacks in the past. 2008, (sic) he played the race card
by comparing Barack Obama's level of support in South Carolina to that of
race-agitator Jesse Jackson -- and the resultant bad publicity imploded his
wife's primary chances in that largely minority state.
year, he told a group of young Democrats that "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."
Clinton was speaking of laws to impose voter-ID
requirements in several states that had previously allowed anyone to vote
without proving they were who they said they were. The corrupt group ACORN
showed just how easy it is to manipulate the system before it collapsed in a
maelstrom of scandal. Their widespread voter-registration fraud in recent years
drew national attention to the problem and criminal actions.
I've been doing this a long time, and I have yet to come across a state which allows anyone to vote "without proving they were who they said they were." The very idea is "ridiculous," the Brennan Center's Larry Norden told me Thursday. ACORN was a scandal about voter registration, not voter identification, which means we have more apples and oranges. I get that Fund and company believe that in-person voting fraud is real and rampant. But where is the proof? Texas sued the Justice Department but never proved the existence of in-person voter fraud. Neither did South Carolina. Or Pennsylvania.