Kentucky senator and insurgent Republican Rand Paul denounced Voter ID law during a Friday interview with the New York Times, instantly becoming the most prominent GOP opponent against the legislation that is popular within his party.
“Everybody’s gone completely crazy on this voter ID thing,” Paul told the Times before speaking with a group of black pastors in Memphis, TN. “I think it’s wrong for Republicans to go too crazy on this issue because it’s offending people.”
According to the NYT, Paul did not criticize Voter ID for being bad policy, but for offending voters that Paul thinks could swing to the GOP.
This is a turnaround from the views he expressed at an April 2013 speech he gave at Howard University. In that speech, Paul defended voter ID laws against accusations that it discriminated against minorities.
“Showing your driver’s license to have an honest election I think is not unreasonable,” Paul said, “and I think that’s the main thing Republicans have been for.”
He is currently on a cross-country tour where he is visiting Democratic strongholds in an attempt to reach people outside of the Republican Party’s base.
Paul also talked about his belief that convicted felons should earn back the right to vote and why he thinks that is a more important issue.
“There’s 180,000 people in Kentucky who can’t vote. And I don’t know the racial breakdown, but it’s probably more black than white because they’re convicted felons. And I’m for getting their right to vote back, which is a much bigger deal than showing your driver’s license,” Paul stated.
But in spite of his efforts, even Paul admits he isn’t receiving very enthusiastic responses from the audiences he’s trying to reach.
He remarked that several times audiences members tell him, “I like what you’re saying. I’m still not voting for you.”
Even the NAACP was not swayed by the Kentucky senator’s views on Voter ID. “But the proof is always in the pudding in terms of seeing exactly what policies and measures he might support as an elected official,” the NAACP’s director of voting rights, Jotaka Eddy, told the Times.
G.A. Hardaway, a Democratic member of the Tennessee General Assembly, was also not swayed by Paul’s message and published a fiery letter to the Senator Friday that criticized both his record and outreach attempts towards minority voters.
“Get real, Senator,”Hardaway wrote. “To come here, to Memphis of all places, and espouse the principles and ‘goodness’ of today’s Republican Party. Excuse me if I’m not buying it.”
Doug Stafford, a spokesman for Rand Paul, issued a statement to The Daily Caller that Paul was simply discussing voter ID in the context that it “should not be a defining issue of the Republican Party” and the Senator supports the issue being left to the states to decide.
“In terms of the specifics of voter ID laws, Senator Paul believes it’s up to each state to decide that type of issue,” Stafford’s statement read.