Sen. Rand Paul thinks the GOP might be over-hyping instances of voter fraud, and that Republicans shouldn’t scrap early voting.
“There is still some fraud, and so we should stop that,” the Kentucky senator, considered a leading potential contender for the GOP’s 2016 presidential nomination, told former Obama adviser David Axelrod during a sit-down Tuesday at the University of Chicago.
“Although the incidence of fraud is relatively small,” Axelrod said.
“It probably is, and I think Republicans may have over-emphasized this. I don’t know,” replied Paul, who made clear that, like most of his party, he supports voter ID requirements.
Republicans have cited fraud to justify a host of restrictions on voting in recent years, including strict voter ID laws in Texas, North Carolina, and other states. They’ve continued to seize on any opportunity to highlight fraud, even though studies have conclusively shown that the amount of such fraud is so small as to be statistically insignificant.
The senator’s willingness to ignore the party line on the issue may endear him to voting-rights advocates and Democrats. But it could also alienate the conservatives he’d need to win his party’s nomination.
As for early voting, which has been cut back lately in three key swing states—North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin—Paul said: “I don’t think early voting is biased one way or the other. So I think eliminating it is a mistake for the—Republicans who want to make their whole thing eliminating early voting, I think that’s a mistake.”
A bipartisan presidential panel recently recommended expanding early voting as one way to make the voting process smoother. The Republican National Lawyers Association, a group of GOP election lawyers, rejected the idea, saying early voting puts “convenience over thoughtful deliberation.”
Paul also has been fighting, both in Kentucky and Washington, to expand access to voting for ex-felons.