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.”
His timing 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.
Democratic 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.”
Prosecutors 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 to vote.”
Clinton has been similarly sloppy in his attacks in the past. 2008, 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.
Then last 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.
In a new book, Hans von Spakovsky and I point out that voter-ID laws make it harder for a person to vote at multiple locations and block illegal aliens from voting. Combined with a cleanup of voter-registration laws and absentee-ballot security, such laws can dramatically increase voter confidence in our elections.
The week before Clinton’s 2011 attack on voter ID, Democrats in Rhode Island’s legislature approved a photo-ID law to combat what African-American state senator Harold Metts, the bill’s co-sponsor, called “a serious and ongoing pattern of voter fraud in this state.” The bill was sponsored in the state house by Gideon Fox, that body’s first African-American speaker.
Clinton’s attacks on voter-ID laws, along with those of Attorney General Eric Holder, ignore the fact that a recent Washington Post poll found that 74 percent of Americans favor having people show an ID when they vote, including 65 percent of African Americans and 64 percent of Hispanics. Most voters believe showing ID — a necessity in our daily lives — is common sense. For those few who lack an ID, getting them a free one is doing them a favor and helping them enter the mainstream of American life.
But critics such as Bill Clinton and Eric Holder prefer to drum up racial fears and tensions with constant references to Jim Crow and poll taxes. Their criticism is not only unwarranted. It is reckless and irresponsible.