SELMA, Ala. — Speaking Sunday at the historic Brown Chapel AME Church, former secretary of state, first lady and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton suggested a key Supreme Court decision may have cost her the White House.
Clinton was participating in an annual commemoration of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches that included the infamous “Bloody Sunday,” when civil rights activists were viciously beaten by white police and protesters. The church where she spoke was the starting point for the marches, which were organized by a group that was pushing for voting rights and included Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga. Clinton connected the push for voting rights to her 2016 presidential campaign.
“I was the first person who ran for president without the protection of the Voting Rights Act and I will tell you, it makes a really big difference,” Clinton said.
Clinton prefaced her comments by discussing the history of the Voting Rights Act, which was passed in 1965. The law required federal oversight of voting in nine southern states and an array of other jurisdictions that were found to have engaged in discriminatory practices. Clinton noted the law was reauthorized by Congress in 2006 while she was in the Senate.
“It was based on thousands and thousands of pages of testimony as to why we ... needed the Voting Rights Act. I thought it was a done deal, passed out of the Congress, signed by a Republican president, and then it found its way to the Supreme Court,” Clinton recounted.
Clinton said Republicans who wanted to “pull back rights” were behind the legal challenge that brought the 2013 Supreme Court decision, in which conservative justices struck down the core of the law.
“They found a receptive Supreme Court who came up with the most absurd decision,” said Clinton, adding, “They gutted the Voting Rights Act.”
Clinton, who won the popular vote in 2016 but lost the electoral college, specifically pointed to Wisconsin, one of three states where President Trump won just over 75,000 more votes, a slim edge that was crucial to his electoral college victory.
“It doesn’t just make a difference in Alabama and Georgia. It made a difference in Wisconsin, where the best studies that have been done said somewhere between 40,000 and 80,000 people were turned away from the polls because of the color of their skin, because of their age, because of whatever excuse could be made up to stop a fellow American citizen from voting,” Clinton said.
Trump defeated Clinton by a little over 22,000 votes in Wisconsin and secured 10 electoral votes with the narrow win. Voters were turned away due to the state’s voter ID law, but estimates vary about the precise number of those affected.
Clinton concluded by turning to 2020 and arguing Democrats need to make it their “mission” to fight for voting rights.
“So, we’re looking towards a new presidential election — thank goodness — but it’s not going to make a difference if we don’t bring the lawsuits and win them ... if we don’t register everybody,” said Clinton.
However, one figure Clinton cited to back up her argument does not appear to match voting records.
“Just think about it, between 2012 — the prior presidential election where we still had the Voting Rights Act — and 2016 … there were fewer voters registered in Georgia than there had been those prior four years,” Clinton said.
The church service was also attended by Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., who is running for president in 2020, and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who said he will make a decision by the end of this month about whether to enter the race. The Rev. Jesse Jackson, a close ally of King’s who ran for president as a Democrat in 1988, was also at the event.
Following the church service, Clinton, Booker, Brown and Jackson all participated in a march to the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where the “Bloody Sunday” attacks took place. All of the Democratic leaders at the ceremonies stressed throughout the day the need to push for voting rights.
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