In recent weeks there has been much collected outrage of an elections reform bill passed in North Carolina that has been called “the most sweeping anti-voter law in at least decades” by Rick Hasen of Election Law Blog.
The new law echoes the elections bill passed in Florida in 2011 that angered mainly (but not exclusively) Democrats, who felt that the restrictions were designed to suppress voters inclined to support Barack Obama's reelection in 2012. Earlier this year, the Florida Legislature passed a bill rescinding some of those provisions.
Speaking on CBS' Face The Nation, former Secretary of State Colin Powell said that the nation is becoming more racially diverse, and it would behoove the GOP to try to welcome those faces into their party, not try to deny them access to the polls.
"The concern I have now is that many states are putting into place procedures and new legislation that in some ways makes it a little bit harder to vote," Powell told Face host Bob Schieffer, referring to Voter ID laws.
"Well you didn't need a voter ID for decades before. Is it really necessary now? And they claim that there's wide spread abuse and voter fraud. But nothing substantiates that. There isn't wide spread abuse, and so these kinds of procedures that are being in put in place to slow the process down to make it likely that fewer Hispanics and African-Americans might vote. I think it will backfire because these people are going to come out and do what they have to do to come out and vote."
Among the bill’s 57 pages of provisions signed into law by North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory are measures ending same-day voter registration, reducing early voting by a week and ending a high school civics program that encourages students to register in advance of their 18th birthdays.
After Republicans won huge numbers in state houses during the 2010 midterm elections, Florida and many other states began imposing such restrictive voting laws. Schieffer asked Powell if Republicans were being close-minded in passing such laws?
Powell said he understood how some Republicans honestly felt that it was appropriate for more identification. But that's as far as he would go.
"When they start to say 'let's restrict the number of voting hours or make it harder for students to vote,' then I have to get a little suspicious of it," he said, adding that he had some advice for his fellow Republicans.
"The country is becoming more diverse. Asian-American, Hispanic-Americans, African-Americans are going to constitute a majority of the population in another generation. You say you want to reach out? You say you want to have a new message. You say you want to see if you can bring some of these voters to the Republicans side. This is not the way to do it. The way to do it is to make it easier for them to vote and then give them something to vote for that they can believe in."
What Powell was referring to is the "autopsy" produced by Reince Priebus and others at the Republican National Committee earlier this year that called on the party to do more outreach to minorities as the demographics in the country change.
"We need to campaign among Hispanic, black, Asian, and gay Americans and demonstrate we care about them, too," the report read. "We must recruit more candidates who come from minority communities. But it is not just tone that counts. Policy always matters."