Vice President Joe Biden had tough words for lawmakers who’ve tried to limit voting rights Tuesday, warning that they may ruin their chances of winning minority voters.
“If they keep this up you can be assured, minorities of all stripes will never vote for anyone who makes it more difficult for them to exercise right to vote,” Biden said in a speech at the annual gala for the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.
“To me it is the most immoral, callous thing that can be done, the idea of making it more difficult to vote,” he said, without specifically naming Republicans, but appearing to make a thinly veiled warning to the party that has been behind the vast majority of voter suppression efforts in recent years.
He lamented the recent debate over Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, pointing out that one-time Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond eventually supported the measure in his career.
Biden called it “an irony” that “just a few years after electing the first African American president in the history of the United States of America,” more than 80% of states in the U.S. introduced or passed 180 laws that “make it more difficult for minorities to vote.”
“If there’s one thing people who want to restrict the vote didn’t understand, they didn’t understand what it means when you tell someone, ‘I’m going to make it difficult for you to vote,’” Biden said, appearing to take a swipe at Republicans. “It means, and I was certain, and Barack and I talked about it, you did too, that it guaranteed people would show. The more they attempt to restrict the right of minorities, the greater the determination and the stronger the will to turn out, and that’s exactly what everyone saw in 2012.”
Biden called voting rights “the single most basic concern” for him, calling it “the very thing that got me involved in politics in the first place—and that’s the unencumbered right to vote.”
Although the party has been engaged in various minority outreach efforts since losing both African American and Hispanic voters by huge margins in 2012, it has not slowed its voter suppression efforts. At least 80 bills to restrict voting rights have been introduced in 31 states according to the Brennan Center. Those measures range from new voter ID laws in Virginia to proposals designed to discourage student voter turnout in Ohio. In North Carolina, Republican lawmakers, empowered their newly-elected Republican governor, have introduced a slew of different voter suppression proposals that have drawn multiple protests in recent days.
Biden also offered praise for Susan Rice, who received the Louis E. Martin Great American Award from the center at the gala.
“She has done an incredible job representing America’s interests,” Biden said, praising her as “one of the brightest, most accomplished people I know.”
He noted Rice has “the absolute, total, complete confidence of the President of the United States of America. So when she speaks, when she speaks in the discordant world we reside in right now, no one wonders, no one wonders, whether or not she’s speaking for the president.”