Bill Clinton: Voting should be as easy as buying an "assault weapon"

Have we reached consensus on voter-ID?  At this afternoon’s rally in honor of the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech, former President Bill Clinton waggled his finger once again and zinged gun-rights activists, saying that voting should not be harder to do than buying an “assault weapon.” Since those purchases require a picture ID and usually a five-day waiting period, most gun-rights and voter-ID supporters would probably agree (video via Twitchy):

Katie Pavlich pounced:

Actually, it wasn’t clear that Clinton meant this as an argument to voter-ID, but then again, it’s not clear what he meant.  He started off complaining about the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which put a few states and other jurisdictions in a special class requiring preclearance of voting law changes because of past racial discrimination.  He then launched into a meandering list of people who were inconvenienced because states have supposedly made it harder to vote — negating his point entirely about race — and ignoring entirely the fact that most if not all of those states have expanded voting through mail-in ballots, and weeks of early voting days.

Besides, as the Supreme Court noted, the fact is that the Section 4 states have achieved parity in voter registration over the 40 years between the VRA’s 1964 passage and the 2004 election:


Clinton also ignores the fact that the court only struck down the preclearance formula from 50 years ago, not the entire VRA.  The Department of Justice can sue states under Section 2, only now it has to prove discrimination rather than forcing a few states to prove their innocence in order to exercise their sovereignty.  To the extent that his argument is cogent at all, it’s demagogic nonsense.

National Journal also manages to get the issue incorrect in its report on Clinton’s jab:

The states “made it harder for African-Americans and Hispanics and students and the elderly and the infirm and poor working folks to vote. What do you know? They showed up, stood in line for hours, and voted anyway, so obviously we don’t need any kind of law,” Clinton said with heavy sarcasm.

“But a great democracy does not make it harder to vote than to buy an assault weapon,” he declared.

The assault-weapon mention is a barb aimed at antigun control groups that successfully blocked Obama’s proposal to require background checks before buying certain assault weapons.

Actually, they did no such thing.  The question wasn’t about background checks for certain types of rifles; it was whether background checks should be expanded to private sales and transfers of all firearms.  All retail sales of firearms, including mail order, still require a background check (unless precleared by a carry permit in some states, including MN) and a government-issued photo ID.  If Clinton wants to support that kind of system for voting, eliminating same-day registration and requiring voters to positively identify themselves, then maybe he can offer a more coherent endorsement.

Update: My friend Father Z cites the relevant statutes.  And man, I still can taste those pastries in Vatican City on the feast day of St. Joseph… (h/t Lisa Graas)

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