By Justin Sink
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said Wednesday that there was no "objective evidence" that black voters were being disenfranchised, as he entered a contentious battle over new voter identification laws in Southern states.
"The interesting thing about voting patterns now is in this last election African-Americans voted at a higher percentage than whites in almost every one of the states that were under the special provisions of the federal government," Paul said at a forum in Louisville, according to WFPL-FM.
Paul's comments come after North Carolina’s governor on Monday signed a new law requiring voters to show a photo ID before casting a ballot. Republican legislatures in others states, including Texas, are moving similar bills.
The new voting laws follow the Supreme Court decision earlier this year that struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act which required jurisdictions with a history of voting discrimination to preemptively clear any changes to election laws with the Department of Justice.
The lawmakers in those states say the laws are intended to prevent fraud, and argue that requiring voters to present identification is not overly burdensome. But Democrats and civil rights activists say the laws are discriminatory and intended to make it more difficult for poor voters to cast their ballot, noting that actual instances of voting fraud are rare.
In a speech in San Francisco on Monday, Hillary Clinton accused Republicans of a "sweeping effort to construct new obstacles to voting, often under cover of addressing a phantom epidemic of 'election fraud.'"
"In the weeks since the ruling, we've seen an unseemly rush by previously covered jurisdictions to enact or enforce laws that will make it harder for millions of our fellow Americans to vote," Clinton said.
But Paul told the audience at his forum in Louisville that it was wrong to compare the identification requirement to poll taxes and tests used to prevent blacks from voting in the Jim Crow South.
"I don't see a problem with showing your driver's license to vote," he said. "I also think that some people are a little bit stuck in the past when they want to compare this. There was a time in the south when African-Americans were absolutely prohibited from voting by selective applications of bizarre and absurd literacy tests. And that was an abomination, that's why we needed the Voting Rights Act, but that's not showing your ID."
- This post corrected on Monday, August 19 at 3:30 p.m. to reflect that Hillary Clinton spoke in San Francisco.