Chris Matthews: Voter ID Laws 'Unforgivable' 'Assault on Black America'

Requiring a photo ID to cast a ballot is tantamount to an "assault on black America" that is "unforgettable, and, you could say, unforgivable."

At least according to MSNBC Hardball host Chris Matthews, who opted to close out his July 17 program -- and lead into veteran race-baiter Al Sharpton's PoliticsNation -- with a screed against his native Pennsylvania's voter ID law, the constitutionality of which is being challenged in a state court (video and transcript follow the page break):


CHRIS MATTHEWS, host: Let me finish tonight with this.

I think the hearings this week up in Pennsylvania tell a huge story. They show how Republicans view voter suppression as their ticket to success.

Here you have a party chairman saying that merely the attention given to a voter photo ID requirement -- even one that the court would set aside -- cut in half President Obama's margin of victory in the state.

Forty-one states had voter suppression bills introduced by Republicans last year. Do you think people are going to forget which party wanted them to be shut out from their democratic rights?

Do you think parents might be telling their teenage children right now -- perhaps on the verge of voting for the first time next year -- to remember who wants them to vote and who doesn't?

Well, this effort by the Republican Party across the country -- countenanced by RNC chair Reince Priebus -- is an assault on black America that's historic, that's deliberate, that's unforgettable, and, you could say, unforgivable.

Keep your eye on this one.

And that's Hardball for now. Thanks for being with us.


As usual, facts and nuance matter little, if at all to the Hardball host. In his brief "Let Me Finish," controversy, Matthews suggests that African-Americans and young voters would be two key demographics disenfranchised by the voter ID law in the Keystone State.

But in Pennsylvania, unlike many other states with voter ID, a student identification card from "an accredited [Pennsylvania] public or private institution of higher learning" is accepted for establishing identification to vote. The same is true on the other ends of the spectrum, for elderly citizens who live in a Pennsylvania "care facility, including long-term care facilities, assisted living residences or personal care homes," according to an FAQ page at the VotesPa website.

But what about the cost? Again, according to an official state website, it's free of charge:

If you do not have one of these IDs, and require one for voting purposes, you may be entitled to get one FREE OF CHARGE at a PennDOT Driver License Center

But what about folks who show up to vote without an ID? Again, according to the new Pennsylvania law, they would NOT be turned away from the polling station. They would have the option of casting a provisional ballot and then returning a few days after the election to confirm their identity and have their vote counted. From a fact sheet from the National Council of State Legislatures:

A voter who is indigent an [sic] unable to obtain ID without any payment or fee, or who is otherwise unable to obtain ID, may vote a provisional ballot.

A voter who casts a provisional ballot because he or she is unable to provide proof of identification must execute an affirmation that he or she is the same person who appeared to vote on election day and do one of the following within six calendar days after the election:

  • Appear in person at the county board of elections to complete the affirmation and present proof of identification;
  • Submit an electronic, facsimile or paper copy of the affirmation and the proof of identification.

A voter who is indigent and unable to obtain proof of identification without payment of a fee must submit an affirmation that he or she is the same person who appeared to vote on election day and that he or she is indigent in the same time frame and manner as described above.

Previous polls have shown that most Americans -- including most Hispanics, black, and elderly voters -- support photo ID laws. It's not like there's some great animosity against the concept from key demographics in the traditional Democratic coalition. So where does Matthews get this notion that the voter ID push is racist? It may well be because of questionable, dated studies showing minorities are less likely than whites to possess a state-issued driver's license.

Of course, voter ID laws do NOT require a driver's license but a government-issued photo ID, and state DMVs also issue valid photo identification cards as well as driver's licenses, so the "no driver's license" talking point is misleading if not deceptive.

Rather than rail against voter ID laws by charging them as racist conspiracies to keep Democrats from voting, why not suggest minor changes to voter ID laws to allow for affidavit voting or to slowly roll out voter ID requirements over a number of years? Why not call for a more concerted effort by states and community leaders to ensure that everyone old enough to vote has access to get his/her documents in order to get a photo ID? Such calls would be constructive and conciliatory rather than destructive and divisive.

Then again, maybe that's exactly the goal of all this hysterical nonsense from Matthews and others: sow discord and suspicion in the body politic rather than offer reasonable solutions.

Race Issues Racism MSNBC Hardball Government & Press Chris Matthews