So what does a Republican politician do when they can't give a good answer on why they think it's acceptable to disenfranchise millions of people with a voter ID law they just sponsored? Why blame it all on a Democratic sell out and Blue Dog, Artur Davis, who was rejected by the electorate in 2010, naturally.
Politics Nation's Al Sharpton did a good job of hitting Alabama State Rep. Kerry Rich for just that during an interview this Wednesday on MSNBC and with pushing back at the notion that invoking Davis justified the impact of the law and the fact that it is designed to do exactly one thing, and that's keep people from voting. As Sharpton noted during the interview, actual cases of voter fraud are virtually nonexistent, but that didn't keep Rich from insisting repeatedly that it was a problem. Of course there's voter fraud going on, because Artur Davis told me so. Pitiful. And these guys claim to be the party of "personal responsibility." Except of course they never want to take responsibility for anything they do. Either blame it on someone else, deny the facts and if that doesn't work, just make up your own alternate reality.
Sharpton wasn't buying it and Rep. Rich looked none too happy by the time the interview was over after Al's grilling.
Transcript below the fold.
SHARPTON: Welcome back to a special edition of POLITICS NATION live from Montgomery, Alabama which on Tuesday will be the next battleground in the GOP presidential race. It`s already on the front lines of a battle over voting rights. Last year, Alabama was among 34 states pushing voter I.D. laws. Republicans managed to get it passed in June. This year, 31 other states will try to follow Alabama`s example and put voter I.D. laws on the books. This is why we`re marching all week from Selma to Montgomery. We want to honor those who fought for voting rights in 1965. And highlight the fight today against a new wave of laws that suppress the vote.
Joining me now is Alabama State Representative Kerry Rich who sponsored the voter I.D. law that passed last year. Thanks for being here.
STATE REP. KERRY RICH (R-AL), SPONSORED VOTER LAW: Good to be here with you.
SHARPTON: Can you really say that there`s been major voter fraud and it`s a major issue here in Alabama when there`s only been three cases in the last three years?
RICH: Well, that was three cases in the last few years, but over the years, there`s been a lot of situations of voter fraud in Alabama. In various parts of the state.
SHARPTON: All right. But in 2003, you made a voter I.D. law that would have dealt with all of that. Since 2003, you`ve only had three cases. Now the difference, the reason why we`re questioning this, in 2003, you passed a voter I.D. law that said you could use your utility bill, bank statement, hunting, fishing license, Medicaid/Medicare, college I.D., military I.D., employer I.D., Social Security card, passport or birth certificate. That was the law. Since then you`ve only had three cases. So, why do you now eliminate all of this and say you`ve got to have.
RICH: Well, you`ve had only three cases but you`ve had areas where there`s been discussion. For instance, the Justice Department, they sent monitors into Alabama to monitor the election in 2008 based on possible voter fraud. You had.
SHARPTON: They might have sent it on possible other things, too. You had three cases. They could have sent them in saying that there was all kinds of stuff, right?
RICH: Well, let me just quote Artur Davis. That`s the former black congressman from Alabama. He represented Selma, represented a portion of Montgomery and a good man. But, anyway, he said I have changed my mind on voter I.D. laws. He said, I think Alabama did the right thing passing one. He went on to say he said when I was congressman, I took the path of least resistance on this subject. And without any evidence to back it up. What this is about is it`s about protecting people`s vote. If you look at our law, our law is patterned almost identical to the Georgia law. The Georgia law has already been approved by the U.S. Justice Department. There`s also been laws in Indiana and also in Rhode Island. Southern states are not the only states that are passing these laws.
SHARPTON: But this is not the Southern thing I agree with you and neither does Artur Davis changing his mind. He was running for governor and lost pretty sizable, even though I agree --
RICH: Well, he wrote this after that.
SHARPTON: Yes, I understand. But what I`m saying to you is notwithstanding. You are -- without a problem. You had a voter I.D. law in 2003 that let you use all of this. Since then you`ve had three cases. You still haven`t shown me where the widespread fraud. It`s like me saying my nose is running and you give me surgery. There is no problem of voter fraud widespread.
RICH: Well, there has been voter fraud over the years in Alabama.
SHARPTON: You just didn`t catch it?
RICH: Well, you don`t catch a lot of things that happen as far as.
SHARPTON: But you change the law even though there`s no fraud.
RICH: Change the law to make it tighter.
SHARPTON: Let me give you another thing that`s curious to me, Representative Rich. The three cases, none of them had anything to do with voter fraud at the polls in terms of I.D. one was a guy that was convicted of buying votes. Another was an absentee ballot fraud and the last was an absentee ballot fraud. None of it had anything to do with somebody going to the polls trying to be somebody else. So, where does your law address even these cases?
RICH: Let me tell you what, Artur Davis said again. He said voting the names of dead and the nonexistence and the too mentally impaired to function canceled out the votes of citizens who are exercising their rights.
SHARPTON: That`s right.
RICH: That`s suppression by any light. If you doubt it exists, I don`t, he says. I`ve heard the peddlers of these ballots brag about it. I`ve been asked to provide the funds for it, and I am confident it has changed at least a few close local elections.
SHARPTON: Well, let me tell you.
RICH: Nothing`s happened.
SHARPTON: Let me tell you that nine million people have voted in this state. You have come up with three cases. And if Artur Davis was asked by somebody to provide money for fraud, he should have turned them in.
RICH: If you believe --
SHARPTON: But since no one was turned in and the three cases that we did had nothing to do with I.D., the only thing that someone could suspect is that it was done to disenfranchise people. Do you realize five million people may not be able to vote because nationwide these laws are going to be changed?
RICH: I just totally disagree with you. First of all --
SHARPTON: We`re talking facts.
RICH: No, you`re not talking facts at all.
SHARPTON: There are more than three cases. Is that a fact or not?
RICH: Well, there has been more than three cases.
SHARPTON: Well, then that`s a fact.
RICH: But you aren`t disenfranchising five million people.
SHARPTON: The Brennan study has done this study, with people that don`t have the I.D. will number five million. The fact is nine million have voted in this state. You admitted that there`s only three. You`ve admitted --
RICH: Have you looked at the facts of what this bill really does?
SHARPTON: Again, it`s like really showing me the facts of surgery when I have a nose run. The bill is answering a problem that doesn`t exist. It`s about voter I.D. You already have a voter I.D. law.
RICH: Well, I can tell you --
SHARPTON: What`s wrong with the utility bills and those that you put through in 2003?
RICH: It doesn`t have a photo. When a person goes into the polls and they vote, the person standing behind the counter looking at the voter registration list should know that that`s the person that they say they are. And the only way -- and the only way you can be certain of that is to have a photo to make sure that that`s the person.
SHARPTON: You don`t have a lot of people coming to you saying the wrong person did it. You have all of these ways to establish I.D. The only reason you`d want to change it is too many people are voting.
RICH: No, that`s not true at all. It is to -- do you believe that Artur Davis, that he wants to disenfranchise people?
SHARPTON: I don`t know. I`m not talking to Artur Davis. I`m talking to you.
SHARPTON: And you can only come up with three cases out of 9 million. I`ll tell you what, keep trying. We`re talking about the time. State Representative Kerry Rich, thank you for the time tonight. I really appreciate you coming on.
RICH: Thank you.
SHARPTON: We`ll be right back. Stay with us.