In the latest in a barrage of criticism of North Carolina’s new voter ID law, former Secretary of State Colin Powell slammed the state’s new measure, saying that it will make it more difficult for African-Americans to vote and will alienate them further from the Republican Party.
Powell, a Republican retired general who served in the Bush administration, made his remarks during a speech for which North Carolina’s governor, Pat McCrory, was sitting in the audience.
“I want to see policies that encourage every American to vote, not make it more difficult to vote,” Powell told an audience of nearly 500 people.
“It immediately turns off a voting bloc the Republican Party needs,” Powell added. “These kinds of actions do not build on the base. It just turns people away.”
North Carolina’s new voter identification law has been harshly criticized by many civil rights organizations. They point out that the Republican-led legislature and GOP governor had approved the measure and that it will have the effect of restricting the voting strength of African-American and Latino North Carolinians.
That legislation, as well as others enacted by the Republican-controlled legislature, have led to a series of high-profile protests at the state’s capital led by the state’s chapter of the NAACP.
The general’s remarks were widely applauded by elected officials and civil rights leaders in North Carolina and beyond.
“Colin Powell is a great American and he is speaking truth to power,” said Garland Pierce, a member of the state’s House of Representatives and the chairman of the North Carolina Legislative Black Caucus, in an interview with BET.com.
“He drove home the point in a clear way that you’re affecting a lot of people when we change voting laws,” Pierce said. “If we go backwards on voting, we’re no better than countries that try to stop people from voting. The world is looking at America and he made the point that we have to live up to our country’s values.”
After Powell’s speech, McCrory’s office issued a statement thanking Powell for complimenting the governor’s policy initiatives since taking office in January.
“The governor appreciates the warm compliments Secretary Powell made today regarding many of the Governor’s initiatives and on voter ID we respectfully disagree,” the statement said.