WASHINGTON WATCH: Former Florida GOP Head Admits To Voter Suppression; Protecting The Right To Vote (VIDEO)

Roland Martin and the Washington Watch roundtable discuss if President Obama has regained his mojo since winning re-election.

This week’s Washington Watch roundtable features aren Finney, MSNBC political analyst. Dr. Chris Metzler, political scientist from Georgetown University, Michelle Bernard, president and CEO of The Bernard Center for Women; and Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change.

MR. MARTIN: All right, folks. Welcome back.

Is it me, or has the President taken his mojo to a new level since reelection? I think we reelected John Shaft!


MR. MARTIN: Let’s take it to the roundtable: Karen Finney, MSNBC political analyst. Dr. Chris Metzler, political scientist from Georgetown University, has truly stepped up his tie-and- – and-pocket-square game.



MR. MARTIN: After I to- — dogged him. Michelle Bernard, president and CEO of The Bernard Center for Women; and Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change. He clearly didn’t get the pocket square memo –


MR. MARTIN: — but –

OFF CAMERA: We weren’t –

MR. MARTIN: — get – get a shot of these funky, lil’ socks he got on –


MR. MARTIN: — an’ lil’, cute – come on! Stick your –

MS. BERNARD: All right!

MR. MARTIN: — stick your lil’ leg –

MS. BERNARD: All right!

MR. MARTIN: — out there like – like you a –

MS. BERNARD: There ya go.

MR. MARTIN: — model or somethin’!


MS. BERNARD: All right.

MR. MARTIN: Show everybody –

MS. BERNARD: There we go! All right.

MR. MARTIN: — show everybody your lil’ –

OFF CAMERA: Ye-e-eah!

MR. MARTIN: — funky lil’ socks!


MR. MARTIN: All right, then. So, that’s –

MR. RASHAD ROBINSON: I – I couldn’t pull off the lavender today, so I had to keep up – you know?

MR. MARTIN: Right, yeah. But you – you need a pocket square, though, wearin’ –

MR. ROBINSON: All right.

MR. MARTIN: — that GQ skinny tie – [crosstalk].

MR. ROBINSON: All right. Well, the holidays are comin’!


MR. ROBINSON: The holidays are comin’. [Chuckles.]

MS. KAREN FINNEY: We tried to warn him!


MR. MARTIN: They[?] –

MS. FINNEY: We tried to warn him!

MR. MARTIN: — to warn him. Tried to warn him. All right.


MR. MARTIN: All right.

MS. FINNEY: A napkin – something!

MR. MARTIN: All right. Let’s – we’re gonna get to it.

Friday, I talked with Jim Greer, former head of the Repar- — Florida Republican Party, on the “Tom Joyner Morning Show” about his – him coming out saying Florida absolutely – Republicans there tried to suppress the vote. Here’s what he had to say.


MR. JIM GREER: Well, you know what the Republican Party has done – and very sadly so – they’ve given up on minority voters. They just don’t believe minority voters are going to vote for a Republican candidate. And as soon as the right wing of the party took over, they put a ball – a bill through the legislature, redurs- — reduced early voting, which they had briefed me many times that early voting was not good for the Republican Party.


MR. MARTIN: Now, what’s funny to me [is] we knew all this!

MS. FINNEY: [Chuckles.] Exactly!

MR. MARTIN: I mean so it’s – this is just confirmation –

MS. FINNEY: Right.

MR. MARTIN: — for him coming out [and] said, yeah. Republicans in Florida absolutely tried to suppress the votes of minorities.

MS. FINNEY: Re- — shock – right? The – is that why we saw eight- and nine-hour lines the weekend before for early voting and a ten-page ballot? Really? I mean did anybody think there was any other reason?

But it – it does give us, I guess, the validation to say, “This is what we’re talking about.”

I think – you know, Roland, you and I have talked about this before. We need a whole new conversation about voting, period. It is a constitutional right.

MR. MARTIN: Um-hum.

MS. FINNEY: We need to get out of this conversation of trying to defend ID versus, you know, what kind of ID and talk about how do we defend our constitutional right to vote. That’s, I think, part of the way that the NRA has been effective in protecting gun owners and gun rights, because they’ve talked about the Second Amendment right to own a gun. We need to be talking about our right – our constitutional right – to vote and how do we make that easier for everybody.

MR. MARTIN: And what we know is that other states – they look to Florida to take the lead on this. And we slaw Florida legislators trying to say, “Oh, no, no, no! This is about protection,” and you saw Governor Rick Scott. But when you sat here and said, “Oh, no. We’re going to outlaw voting on the Sunday right before the election,” “We’re going to shorten voting hours,” “We’re only g-” – “only going to have voting early in just one week” – they even tried to say it’s all about saving money.

Here’s a guy who said, “No. I’m sorry. I was in the room” –


MR. MARTIN: — “when it was being talked about, because they said, ‘We cannot compete against Democrats and early voting.’”

And we saw it in ’08.

MS. FINNEY: Right.

MR. MARTIN: We saw it in ’12. The President’s lead in Florida was really a result of the massive turnout in early voting.

And I’ll say it again. The Republicans ticked off black folks with voter suppression –


MR. MARTIN: — and this guy simply confirming why folks were mad, Chris.

DR. METZLER: Yeah. Oh, without question! And here’s the – here’s the other problem. What’s-his-name, who – we don’t even care what his name is. Rick Scott, the Republican governor of Florida, the most idiotic move in terms of saying, “I’m going to continue to have people in line forever and ever so Florida can continue to look like an idiot relative to vo[ting].”

I – I agree with you, Karen. I think the conversation is about the expansion of voter rights, not the contraction of voter rights.



MR. MARTIN: — and, Michelle, what people – I don’t know if people realize there is no federal standard when it comes to voting.



MS. FINNEY: That’s right.

MS. BERNARD: Yeah. It – you know, the – the country reauthorized the Voting Rights Act just a few years ago, and at that time it was thought to be a very – a largely ceremonial act, and it was no big deal. And, you know, there were a lot of African-Americans who were saying, “We’ve come so far, we don’t need this any longer.”

This really needs to be a wakeup call to every person of color in this country, because this is a strategy that’s not going to go away. You know, they’ve been called out on it. They have admitted it. This is what we saw in 2012. It’s going to happen in 2016, and as – as the white population – particularly in the South – continues to contract and become more socially conservative, people – there – people don’t seem to be able to get away from this feeling of “people of color are taking something away from me.”


MS. BERNARD: And that – and we’re going to keep seeing that – this battle. It needs to be a wakeup call to all of us to – to be vocal on voting rights.

MR. MARTIN: Rashad, the Supreme Court could very well consider Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, and some people have said, “Oh, my God. We” – “We actually might lose the Voting Rights Act.”

I believe, though, that, as a result of these voter suppression tactics, the Republicans have now given 21st-century examples – as opposed to saying, “Oh, no.”


MR. MARTIN: “The examples you’re using go back to 1960.”

No, no, no. We have what you tried in 2012.

MR. ROBINSON: You know, exactly. Over this past election cycle, we were actually collecting stories for a lot of the lawyers, who did amazing work, to fight back against whether it was voter ID laws in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, or the rollbacks to early voting. And the stories that we were collecting around the hardship that people were having with this election process were outrageous, and those stories hopefully will fuel the effort to protect Section 5, but also fuel what Karen was talking about – which is the larger conversation we need to be having over the next couple of years to strengthen and make sure that our voting system is open and accessible to all.

MS. FINNEY: And that –

MR. MARTIN: Now, Karen, here’s what’s interesting. Bush v. Gore – people don’t realize in that Supreme Court ruling, Scalia made clear that there is no affirmative right to vote for all Americans. You do have the provision saying you cannot deny people of –

MS. FINNEY: — right.

MR. MARTIN: — color or women access to the ballot.

MS. FINNEY: Right.

MR. MARTIN: And – and former congressman – now former congressman – we’ll talk about that a little bit later – Jesse Jackson, Jr., he had – had been pushing a constitutional amendment saying there should be a federal standard –


MR. MARTIN: — and affirm the right to vote in the Constitution.

MS. FINNEY: And that’s why, again, I say I think we need to have that broader conversation, because I think, particularly when Democrats are having the conversation about voter ID legislation, we’re losing. And we – and, look. This whole conversation about “inte-” – “protecting the integrity” – right – of the election, we know historically that’s because once people were able to see, on television, people getting their heads beat in trying to register to vote – you know, some of those images [of] John Lewis and others – you know, the conservatives rightly said, “We need a new strategy. We can’t” – you know, “Those pictures are bad PR for what we’re trying to do.” So, then the conversation became all about, you know, “protecting the integrity” of the vote, and that’s a lot of what you hear now.

So, you – you’re right. I mean I think we need to expand the conversation so that it’s not just people of color, but so that every American feels a stake, frankly, in protecting this right; but also in reaffirming it a- — as a right for every American.

OFF CAMERA: Yeah, so –

MS. BERNARD: [Crosstalk]- – though, you know, we keep hearing conversations over the last few years about, “Is there really any place for organizations like the NAACP?” And I think it – it imp- — it’s particularly important for – for this audience that’s watching the program to go back and think about everything our ancestors fought for and to realize we need to continue to support organizations like The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the NAACP and the National Urban League because we need to act as individuals, but we also need organizations like those organizations to work with us in making sure that we’re not denied the right to vote.

MR. MARTIN: And, Chris, look. Black folks are moving in record numbers. We have reverse migration going on.


MR. MARTIN: They’re moving back to the South and – to Karen’s point – those right now are largely red states. And so you have folks who are leaving Chicago, leaving Detroit, leaving Cleveland; and all of a sudden, they’re going back to Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi. And that’s where you have some of the most restrictive efforts to prevent folks from actually voting. Texas is getting 500,000 new people every year. Same thing there.

DR. METZLER: Well – yeah. So, here’s the fundament[al] – here’s what my party doesn’t get. Number one, the whole idea – from the standpoint of diversity, diversity is a reality. That’s number one. Number two, our democracy is strengthened by having two really strong parties.

My concern is the strategy on behalf of the Republican Party will continue to relegate the Republican Party into the losing column, because you don’t say to me, “I’m going to suppress your vote, but vote for me.”

OFF CAMERA: [Chuckles.] Right.

DR. METZLER: You don’t say to me, “You don’t belong here. By the way, once your ass is” – [chuckles] –


DR. METZLER: — “getting kicked out of the country” –

MR. MARTIN: That – that’s what they say! Go ahead.

MS. FINNEY: Right!


MR. MARTIN: [Chuckles.]

DR. METZLER: — “vote for me.” You know, you don’t do that!

So – so, in – in terms of the “big tent,” my concern is that what’s happening is that the “big tent” concept is simply rhetorical. And if that’s the way that the –

MR. MARTIN: Right.

DR. METZLER: — the party wants to go, then the Republican Party’s going to continue to be relegated to the losing party.

MR. MARTIN: Folks, hold tight one second. I[’ve] got to go to a break, but I do want to go to the break, though, showing you this wonderful photo of the House Republican leadership –


MR. MARTIN: — to Chris’ point about diversity.


MR. MARTIN: Wo-o-w!

OFF CAMERA: Those are –

MR. MARTIN: Look at all that color!

OFF CAMERA: — those are –

MR. MARTIN: And the background –


OFF CAMERA: Also the women!

MR. MARTIN: — of the photo.

OFF CAMERA: And all of the women!

MR. MARTIN: Yeah. Boy! Yeah!


MR. MARTIN: A lo-o-otta sisters in that photo as well!