Colin Powell spoke out forcefully Thursday against a sweeping new voting law in North Carolina, arguing that Republicans should be courting minority voters rather than driving them away from the polls.
“I want to see policies that encourage every American to vote, not make it more difficult to vote,” the former secretary of state said in a speech at Raleigh, N.C., according to The News & Observer.
Powell added, “It immediately turns off a voting bloc the Republican Party needs. These kinds of actions do not build on the base. It just turns people away.”
Powell’s remarks were even more notable given North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory’s (R) presence at the CEO Forum in Raleigh.
McCrory (R) signed the voting bill — passed by the GOP-controlled legislature — with little fanfare earlier this month. The law, slated to take effect in 2016, will require government-issued photo IDs at the polls while shortening the early voting period in the state. Democrats and groups such as the NAACP and the ACLU have criticized the law for its punitive effects on minority and young voters. McCrory spoke before Powell at the event.
North Carolina’s Democratic senator, Kay Hagan, has called on Attorney General Eric Holder to review the law and a survey from Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling showed that half of Tar Heel State voters are opposed to the measure.
Powell, who endorsed President Barack Obama in both 2008 and 2012, has addressed his party’s problems with minorities before. In January, he said that he still considers himself a Republican but acknowledged the presence of “a dark vein of intolerance in some parts of the party.”
He revisited that theme in a big way on Thursday, arguing that measures like North Carolina’s voting law punish minority voters.
“What it really says to the minority voters is … ‘We really are sort-of punishing you,'” Powell said, as quoted by The News & Observer.