Rand Paul Beats Hasty Retreat

Until this week Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky had been one of the few Republicans to criticize his party's campaign of voter suppression and intimidation, but he seems to have changed his mind.

The GOP's obsession with voter identification laws is offending people, particularly African-Americans, he admitted in a New York Times interview last week.  "Everybody's gone completely crazy on this voter ID thing.  I think it's wrong for Republicans to go too crazy on this issue because it's offending people," he explained.  Voter ID laws are useful, he said, but Republicans "may have overemphasized" the issue.

This may have been part of his effort to talk back from  a comment he made during his Senate campaign four years ago when he indicated that he probably would not have voted for the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

That's what he said when speaking to the New York Times, but with a Fox News star, he had a very different view. He has no problem with those voter ID laws, he said, he just wishes Republicans wouldn't talk so much about them, Talking Points Memo, reported. 

 “There’s nothing wrong with it … I don’t really object to having some rules with how we vote,” Paul said on Fox News host Sean Hannity's radio show.  He's not troubled by Republicans making voter ID a "central theme and issue," but they should restrain their rhetoric because some minority voters might find out what they're up to. 

"I'm trying to go out and say to African-Americans 'I want your vote, and the Republican Party wants your vote' … we have to be aware that the perception is out there and be careful about not so overdoing something that we further alienate a block of people that we need to attract," he said.

In addition to Tough new voter ID laws are just one of the measures being imposed in a number of states, particularly those led by Republican legislatures and governors; others include limiting early voting, reducing voting locations, changing absentee voting rules and tightening registration procedures. 

Two leading Jewish organizations — the Anti-Defamation League and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs — have condemned the Republican-led campaign to restrict access to the polls by minority and other voters who traditionally support Democrats.

ADL said claims of rampant voter fraud by undocumented immigrants is a "myth" that has been "widely discredited."  JCPA warned against "crossing the line into voter intimidation, discrimination or vote suppression."

Twenty-five Jewish organizations have written to Congress urging swift passage of the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014 (HR 3899/S 1945), which would replace critical protections removed by the Supreme Court's Shelby County v. Holder decision.  Chief Justice John Roberts had called on Congress to develop a new formula for voting procedures struck down by the Court. The letter was organized by Bend The Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice.

Jewish community councils across the country need to get much more involved in combating this problem which threatens all minorities, including the Democratic-leaning Jewish community.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.