Speaking to a crowd of students and activists in Austin, Texas,
Clinton slammed new voting laws that require photo IDs, make voting
harder for students, or otherwise tighten up access to the polls.
"We all know what this is about," Clinton said at a gathering called
the Civil Rights Summit at the Lyndon Baines Johnson presidential
library. "This is a way of restricting the franchise after 50 years
of expanding it."
Last year the Justice Department separately sued Texas and North
Carolina to block voter-identification laws. Supporters say the laws
are needed to combat voter fraud.
Clinton is among four American presidents to address the three-day
meeting, joining President Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter and George W.
Bush to mark a half century since Johnson signed the landmark 1964
Civil Rights Act.
The Civil Rights Act outlawed discrimination on the basis of race,
ethnicity, religion or gender, and was followed a year later by the
Voting Rights Act — part of which was struck down by the U.S.
Supreme Court in 2013.
Obama is set to speak early Thursday, with Bush to follow in the
evening. The gathering also includes discussions by Civil Rights-era
figures such as Vernon Jordan, Andrew Young, and Julian Bond.
Johnson ascended to the White House from the vice presidency after
the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. While he closed out
his administration in 1969 under the cloud of Vietnam, advancing
civil rights was his strongest legislative legacy, the gathering's
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But the current trend of political divisiveness, clamping down on
voting access, and denying undocumented immigrants the opportunity
to become voting members of society threatens to undermine all that
hard work, Clinton said.
He pointed to himself, Carter and Obama as examples of presidents
who would never have been elected were it not for the expansion of
voting rights to minorities.
"How could we possibly consider doing anything that would shrink the
pool of talent, shrink the scope of personal dignity, shrink the
options for people's achievements?" Clinton said. "It's just nuts.
It doesn't make any sense."
(Reporting by Karen Brooks; editing by Mohammad Zargham)
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