Hillary Clinton accused the Republicans of enacting state voting laws based on a “phantom epidemic of election fraud” in a speech she gave Thursday in front of 2000 Texas Southern University students. She called for automatic voter registration in every state when young people turn 18, with acceptable forms of identification including government-issued ID cards, passports, driver’s licenses, and employee and student cards.
Hillary went on to criticize Republican-sponsored voting laws in North Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin, and urged Congress to take immediate action to reinstate an important provision of the Voting Rights Act that she said the Supreme Court had “eviscerated” in a 2013 ruling.
“If you want to vote in this state (Texas), you can use a concealed weapon permit as a valid form of identification, but a valid student ID isn’t good enough, ” Mrs. Clinton said.
As the leading Democrat candidate for President, Hillary believes that the election laws enacted by Republican governors and Republican-led legislatures since 2010 disproportionately affect the poor, minorities and young people. A Government Accountability Office study last October found that states with more stringent voter identification laws had a larger decline in voter turnout than states that did not have such new restrictions.
Orlando Watson, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, called Mrs. Clinton’s remarks “misleading and divisive” and “shameless, ” and said they “ignore the fact her Democrat-led home state of New York does not allow early voting while dozens of Republican-led states do.”
Nevertheless, the debate is heating up and currently in the litigation phase. George Soros, the Hungarian-born billionaire investor, has already agreed to put as much as $5 million into the litigation effort, which Democrats hope will erode restrictions on voter access that they say could otherwise prove decisive in a close election.
Mr. Soros described himself as “proud” to be part of the legal battles. “We hope to see these unfair laws, which often disproportionately affect the most vulnerable in our society, repealed, ” he said.
Two suits that Mr. Soros is supporting were filed in Ohio and in Wisconsin last month. He is also helping to pay for a case several groups filed last year in North Carolina.
Republicans have argued that the new laws enacted since 2010 are much-needed protection against election fraud, and dismiss the litigation as little more than a gambit to energize minority voters in support of Democratic candidates.
But Mr. Soros’s political adviser, Michael Vachon, suggested that Republicans were “using the legislative process” for partisan purposes. “It is disingenuous to suggest that these laws are meant to protect against voter fraud, which is nearly nonexistent, ” he said. “Clearly they are meant to give Republicans a political advantage on Election Day.”
Almost all of the states that have stringent voter identification laws have growing African-American or Hispanic populations, groups crucial to Mr. Obama in 2012, but whose voting rights Democrats say could be impinged next year, damaging the party’s prospects.
Democrats seeking office at every level in 2016 could gain if lawsuits in their states are successful. But Mrs. Clinton is certain to benefit if, as is increasingly likely, she is the party’s nominee.