Strict voter identification laws being implemented in some states threaten to reverse the progress made by landmark civil and voting rights legislation passed nearly fifty years ago, former President Bill Clinton said Wednesday.
“This is a way of restricting the franchise after 50 years of expanding it,” Clinton said of new voter ID laws that have recently been passed in some states.
Proponents of the laws, which can include requirements like showing government issued photo ID before casting a ballot, say the measures help prevent voter fraud. Opponents of the laws say they are meant to make voting more difficult for minority voters who have never needed an ID.
Clinton’s comments came during a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library. The three-day event marks the anniversary of the groundbreaking 1964 that outlawed racial discrimination in employment and segregation at public places.
The former president blasted the Supreme Court for a 2013 decision that struck down key provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, calling it “one of the most radical departures from established legal decision making in my lifetime.”
“I am concerned that on this 50th anniversary, these divisions and the lack of a spirit of coming together put us back in the dust bin of old history,” Clinton said.
On Tuesday, Jimmy Carter told the summit that “too many people are at ease” with continuing inequality between black and white Americans and the country had become “dormant” on the issue of race.
President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush will speak at the library on Thursday.