Several GOP presidential hopefuls whom Hillary Rodham Clinton accused of facilitating voter suppression in a Thursday speech are firing back, accusing her of intentionally misleading voters.
"Secretary Clinton doesn't know the first thing about voting rights in New Jersey or any other state that she attacked, and my sense is that she just wants an opportunity to have -- you know -- commit greater acts of voter fraud around the country," New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) told reporters in New Hampshire Friday. "So, you know, I'm not worried about her opinion."
Clinton called for a sweeping expansion in voter access during her speech at the South Texas University, including automatically registering voters when they turn 18 years old. But Clinton also accused several GOP presidential hopefuls, by name, of intentionally repressing votes in their states.
“What is happening is a sweeping effort to disempower and disenfranchise people of color, poor people and young people, from one end of our country to another,” Clinton said. “Here in Texas, former governor Rick Perry signed a law that a federal court said was actually written with a purpose of discriminating against minority voters."
And she added that "Governor Perry is hardly alone in his crusade against voting rights."
“In Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker cut back early voting and signed legislation that would make it harder for college students to vote. In New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie vetoed legislation to extend early voting," she said. "And in Florida, when Jeb Bush was governor, state authorities conducted a deeply flawed purge of voters before the presidential election in 2000.”
Voting rights issues have animated both Democrats and Republicans alike in recent years. While Republicans have raised concerns about the potential for voter fraud, Democrats have strongly dismissed those fears as overblown. Democrats have charged that legislation to address concerns about voter fraud is engineered to suppress Democratic turnout.
Clinton's speech featured her most aggressively partisan remarks since the 2008 election -- her first this cycle to mention Republican 2016 candidates by name -- ahead of her major campaign "launch" speech in New York next week. The voting rights comments were the latest in a series of base-pleasing positions, including progressive stances on gay marriage, immigration policy and criminal justice reform.
Everyone she mentioned by name was a potential GOP presidential candidate and a former or current governor.
"While it is unfortunate, Gov. Perry is not surprised that Hillary Clinton would come to Texas and call for weakening the integrity of our election process. Once again she has demonstrated how truly out of touch she is with the people of Texas," said Perry spokesman Travis Considine.
Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio), who was not named directly by Clinton in the speech, was particularly blunt, accusing her of hypocrisy. In Ohio, lawyers with ties to Clinton and the state Democratic Party have filed a lawsuit alleging that GOP lawmakers in the state have intentionally sought to suppress Democratic voters' access to the polls.
"Don't be running around the country dividing Americans. Don't be coming in and saying we are deliberately trying to keep people from voting when her own state has less opportunity for voting than my state. And she’s going to sue my state?" Kasich said on Fox News Friday. "That's just silly. Come on Hillary, you know better than that."
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) took a different tack than his GOP rivals. He said he did not see what Clinton said about whom, but that he has pushed for expanding voting rights for felons who served their time for nonviolent crimes.
"All I can say is about myself that I’ve tried to make it more inclusive so more people can vote," Paul said in Manchester, N.H., on Friday evening. "I’ve actually lobbied for allowing people to get their right to vote back."
When asked if members of his party are trying to keep people from voting, Paul said Republicans should encourage voting.
“I don’t know. All I know is what I’m trying to do and I think it’s a good idea for Republicans to be a party that’s for the vote, for allowing people to vote, and ... that’s what I’m going to try to do,” he said.
Katie Zezima contributed reporting from Manchester, N.H.