Top Democrats flip-flop on 'racist' voter ID laws

Voter ID has been dubbed racist, but now some Democrats favor it

As Democrats try to push the For the People Act through the Senate, some of the party's top figures are changing their tune on voter ID rules they previously called "racist."

In an effort to garner bipartisan support for the act, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has proposed a set of compromises. One would expand voter ID laws, long a legislative objective for the GOP. The line from the Manchin memo: "Require voter ID with allowable alternatives (utility bill, etc.) to prove identity to vote". 

When asked about the compromise on Thursday, Stacey Abrams, the former gubernatorial candidate for Georgia and Fair Fight Action founder, who has long railed against voter ID laws, said she "absolutely" could support Manchin's proposal even if voter ID was a part of it. "That's one of the fallacies of Republican talking points that have been deeply disturbing. No one has ever objected to having to prove who you are to vote. It's been part of our nation's history since the inception of voting," Abrams told CNN.  

However, many top Democrats have been deriding voter ID laws as suppressive and racist for years, including Abrams. 

As recently as this past March, she referred to Georgia's recent voting-rights bills, which included expanding voter ID laws, as "racist" and "a redux of Jim Crow in a suit and tie."

She wasn't the only one.

Also in March, President Biden mentioned that the passage of the Georiga voting bills "makes Jim Crow look like Jim Eagle." Biden also has referred to voter ID laws as a racially charged "attempt to repress minority voting masquerading as an attempt to end corruption." 

As a senator, Vice President Kamala Harris tried to sink the nomination of 5th Circuit Court Judge Kyle Duncan by criticizing him for trying to reinstate a voter ID law she called "racist," noting an appeals court wrote that it "targeted African-Americans with almost surgical precision."

Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., also has spoken at great length about how he believed voter ID laws were racially suppressive. "Dealing with these voter ID laws, this is not about voter verification, this is about voter suppression. They’re still playing the same games," he said in a sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church in 2015.


Furthermore, Warnock said in his first speech before the Senate, "We are witnessing right now a massive and unabashed assault on voting rights unlike anything we have seen since the Jim Crow era. This is Jim Crow in new clothes." 

Now, despite his continued pummeling of voter ID laws in the past, Warnock, like Stacey Abrams, has flipped on the topic. 

"I have never been opposed to voter ID," Warnock told NBC News in an interview published Thursday. "And in fact, I don't know anybody who is — who believes people shouldn't have to prove that they are who they say they are." 

The recent change in the Democrats' tone on voter ID could be partly because polling shows it's a popular policy among Americans. An Associated Press poll conducted in March showed 72% of Americans supported voter ID laws. 

Despite having fought for stricter voter identification policies for years, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called the Manchin proposal "equally unacceptable."


McConnell said Thursday, "I actually think when Stacey Abrams immediately endorsed Sen. Machin’s proposal it became the Stacey Abrams (bill), not the Joe Manchin (bill)." 

The vote on the For The People Act is slated for next week. It is not expected to receive the 10 Republican votes needed to pass. 

Fox News' Evie Fordham and Marisa Schultz contributed to this report.