By Russell Berman - 08/25/13 03:11 PM EDT
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell on Sunday predicted that Republican attempts to pass voter ID laws would “backfire” by energizing minorities to vote them out of office.
Powell took aim at efforts on the state legislature level to require that people show photo identification to vote.
Following the Supreme Court ruling in June that struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act, Republicans in states like Texas and North Carolina are advancing legislation that would require voters to show photo ID at the polls.
“They claim that there’s widespread abuse and voter fraud, but nothing substantiates that,” Powell said. “There isn’t widespread abuse.”
A Republican who has been increasingly critical of his party in recent years, Powell endorsed President Obama in both 2008 and 2012.
He said the GOP’s moves on voting access would in particular damage the party’s effort to appeal to the growing minority populations it will need to win national elections in the future. “This is not the way to do it,” Powell said.
He said he disagreed with the Supreme Court’s decision on the Voting Rights Act.
“I would have preferred that they did not reach such a conclusion, but they did, and I can see why they reached such a conclusion,” Powell said.
Powell, the nation’s first African American secretary of State and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke amid a series of events marking the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech.
Powell praised Obama for speaking out on race after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin killing, but he said he wanted to see the president be more “passionate” about race questions.
“He has a responsibility to the whole country, and I think he should speak out on these issues not just because he's the first black president, but because he is the president,” Powell said.
On the Zimmerman verdict, he said: “I think that it will be seen as a questionable judgment on the part of the judicial system down there, but I don't know if it will have staying power. These cases come along and they blaze across the midnight sky and then after a period of time, they're forgotten.”