Sen. Rand Paul's (R-Ky.) office is walking back recent comments in which the senator appeared to urge Republicans to back off "crazy" voting laws that minorities found offensive.
"At no point did Senator Paul come out against voter ID laws," Paul's former chief of staff and current PAC director told Slate. "In terms of the specifics of voter ID laws, Senator Paul believes it's up to each state to decide that type of issue."
Such laws are popular with Republicans, who claim they are needed to address the issue of voter fraud, but critics say stringent measures like the one recently signed into law in North Carolina suppress the votes of minorities, seniors and young adults. Paul has been mindful of the issue as he reaches out to black voters on college campuses ahead of a possible presidential run in 2016.
The libertarian already raised eyebrows when he claimed that "Republicans may have over-emphasized" the occurrence of voter fraud. And his comments to The New York Times appeared to signal a wider break from his party on the matter.
“Everybody’s gone completely crazy on this voter ID thing,” Paul said in an interview published Saturday. “I think it’s wrong for Republicans to go too crazy on this issue because it’s offending people.”
“There’s 180,000 people in Kentucky who can’t vote," he added. "And I don’t know the racial breakdown, but it’s probably more black than white because they’re convicted felons. And I’m for getting their right to vote back, which is a much bigger deal than showing your driver’s license.”
But Paul's PAC director dispelled the notion that the Kentucky Republican was coming out against ID laws in a statement The Huffington Post confirmed with Paul's office:
Senator Paul was having a larger discussion about criminal justice reform and restoration of voting rights, two issues he has been speaking about around the country and pushing for in state and federal legislation.
In the course of that discussion, he reiterated a point he has made before that while there may be some instances of voter fraud, it should not be a defining issue of the Republican Party, as it is an issue that is perhaps perceived in a way it is not intended. At no point did Senator Paul come out against voter ID laws. In terms of the specifics of voter ID laws, Senator Paul believes it's up to each state to decide that type of issue.