President Bill Clinton ripped the Supreme Court's conservative justices and Republicans pushing voter identification laws on Wednesday, accusing them of undermining civil rights.
"Last year, in one of the most radical departures from established legal decision-making in my lifetime, the Supreme Court threw [The Voting Rights Act] out, or at least threw a very important provision of it out, and said 'We don't care what Congress found by 90 percent vote, and we have no evidence to prove them wrong, but our opinion is they should not have extended the Voting Rights Act.' And it sent a signal across the country," he said.
The former president, who recently helped the Democratic National Committee kick off a push to expand voting rights, slammed voter ID laws pushed by Republicans in Texas and North Carolina as well, pointing out that Texas's law allows for concealed carry gun permits to be used as valid identification but not college identification cards.
"We all know what this is about. This is a way of restricting the franchise after 50 years of expanding it," he said.
"Here we've been working for 50 years, first to open up registration to everybody and secondly to try to convince them to be responsible enough to vote, and all of a sudden, there are all these new barriers to voting to make it harder to vote," Clinton continued.
"Is this what Martin Luther King gave his life for? Is this what Lyndon Johnson gave his legendary skills for? Is this is what America has become — a great diverse American Democracy … to restrict the franchise?" Clinton continued. "Here we are seriously considering undermining the spirit of both the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Act because of what's happening with the franchise — this is nuts; it doesn't make any sense."
Democrats are very worried about low voter turnout from their top constituencies, including college students and minorities, and have been railing against Republican pushes in a variety of states to shrink early voting times and require photo identification to vote. Clinton warned that the attacks might work in the upcoming midterm election — and said Republicans were undercutting civil rights with their push.
"Anytime you erect a barrier to political participation that disproportionately affects people based on their race or their physical capacity or their income or whether or not they've got a car to drive far enough and can afford the gasoline to get to a place where they can get an approved photo ID, any time you do any of that it undermines the spirit of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act," he said.