Former Secretary of State Colin Powell warned Republicans on Sunday that the strict voter identification laws they’re pursuing around the country will damage the party’s standing with growing blocs of voters.
“[H]ere’s what I say to my Republican friends: The country is becoming more diverse,” Powell told Bob Schieffer on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “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 Republican 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,” Powell added.
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling that struck down a key portion of the Voting Rights Act, Republicans in states like North Carolina, Florida and Texas have sought voter restrictions that critics, including Powell, say will disproportionately hurt minorities at the polls. North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) signed legislation earlier this month that requires voter identification, rolls back early voting hours and ends a state-supported voter registration drive. Powell condemned that particular law at an event in Raleigh last week.
Powell pointed out that there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud, the very premise of the identification statutes.
“You need a photo ID. Well, you didn’t need a photo ID for decades before,” Powell said. “Is it really necessary now? And they claim that there’s widespread abuse and voter fraud, but nothing documents, nothing substantiates that. There isn’t widespread abuse.”
Powell predicted that such measures will blow up in Republicans’ faces.
“These kind of procedures that are being put in place to slow the process down and make it likely that fewer Hispanics and African Americans might vote, I think, are going to backfire, because these people are going to come out and do what they have to do in order to vote, and I encourage that,” he said.
During the interview, Powell also reflected on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, recalling times when he couldn’t eat in certain places due to the color of his skin, even though he’d just served his country.
“In my lifetime, over a long career in public life, you know, I’ve been refused access to restaurants where I couldn’t eat, even though I just came back from Vietnam: ‘We can’t give you a hamburger, come back some other time,’” Powell recalled. “And I did, right after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, I went right back to that same place and got my hamburger, and they were more than happy to serve me now. It removed a cross from their back, but we’re not there yet. We’re not there yet. And so we’ve got to keep working on it.”