MR. MARTIN: Republicans in Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, North Carolina, South Carolina and my home state of Texas want to, and in many cases have, made it more difficult for you to vote. And that’s just a few of the states where laws have been enacted that specifically target young folks, African-Americans, Latinos and elderly voters. But knowledge is power, and even in places where laws have been passed, there’re still ways around them.
Joining me now to talk about a campaign that is aimed at increasing registration and participation among Democratic voters is Will Crossley, Director of Voter Protection of the Democratic National Committee.
Will, Welcome to “Washington Watch.”
MR. WILL CROSSLEY: Thank you for having me, Roland.
MR. MARTIN: How serious is the DNC taking this issue? Because, clearly, when you look at the changes that are taking place in all of these states, Republican legislatures, Republican governors [are] targeting groups that traditionally turn out for Democrats.
MR. CROSSLEY: Absolutely, absolutely. We’re taking it very seriously. We have been taking it seriously all year, in fact, and we worked through the legislative process for a good portion of the year. I would note that, if you look at photo I.D. laws, for example, the five Democratic governors who received a photo I.D. bill – all five of them vetoed that legislation. And so we worked through that process, but then it made it through in – in some states. As you know, about 40 states have had – have tried to pass legislation in this regard. And so where we weren’t able to do that, we are now engaging in a campaign to make sure that everyone knows exactly what has happened, what the rules are today, what’s hap- — what – what the rules are where they live, and what they can do to get engaged on this issue.
MR. MARTIN: How extensive is your legal network in terms of fanning out lawyers across the country, not only trying to target laws now – but, clearly, you have primaries coming up; but this also goes beyond, obviously, the election of Pres. Barack Obama. You’re talking about state races, congressional races, cou- — county races, city races, school board races – you name it.
MR. CROSSLEY: We intend to be aggressive at ensuring that our supporters can get to the polls, that we have lawyers there to provide them the legal support that they need. If you look at what we’ve done on this issue, really going back for some nearly 30 years now, where we have had litigation on this very issue. And out of 2008, we s- — out of a lawsuit we have against the Republican Party, they have attempted to get out of a consent decree. The judge bound them to that because they continue to engage in voter suppression activity. And so that lawsuit, which is still pending right now, is under way. And so we feel very seriously about this. We’ll be prepared to take additional legal action if we feel it’s necessary to do that in order for American voters to get to the polls.
MR. MARTIN: I made that whole point about – in terms of how it impacts so many different races, because these are state laws. And so how are you also pressing the Justice Department? Because they have jurisdiction, when it comes to the Voting Rights, over a number of states, how are you also pressing them to increase the activity?
MR. CROSSLEY: Florida, like Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi, Texas, some other states that have tried to move in this direction have a long history of race discrimination when it comes to voting rights. They have to submit to the Department of Justice under Section 5, and they have attempted to pass several of these laws without going through that process. And so they’ve been held to account for that. We’re – we’ve been very happy to see that. We’ve been very pleased that Attorney General Holder and others have said that they’re looking very closely at these laws, and so right now the Department of Justice is in federal court here in D.C. with the State of Florida on an attempt that they have made to change how you would register in that state. And so – and – and so I think with every lever that’s available, we are seeing an effort to ensure that we can continue to protect people’s right to vote.
MR. MARTIN: And although you’re with the DNC, we made it perfectly clear that this voter suppression impacts all Americans, regardless of whether you’re a Democrat, Republican or independent. So –
MR. CROSSLEY: The- — there’s no question.
MR. MARTIN: — right.
MR. CROSSLEY: And we don’t ask someone how you’re voting. We just want to make sure that they can vote.
MR. MARTIN: All right. Well, we cer- — Will, we certainly appreciate it. Thanks a lot.