Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) believes voter ID laws are perfectly fine, just as long as Republicans don't speak too loudly about them.
The Kentucky Republican, who is widely expected to be running for president in 2016, appeared recently to break with his party on the matter by urging his colleagues to temper their zeal for "crazy" legislation that was "offending people." A staffer subsequently assured reporters that Paul still supported voter ID laws, and the libertarian appeared on Fox News host Sean Hannity's radio show on Tuesday to mollify right-wing listeners about his "overblown" comments.
"There's nothing wrong with it," he said on Hannity's show. "To see [Attorney General] Eric Holder you've got to show your drivers license to get in the building. So I don't really object to having some rules for how we vote."
Republicans recently passed voter ID measures in several states in order to eliminate what they claim is election fraud, but critics say it's a solution to a problem that doesn't exist. Rather than acting as a safeguard, such laws are intended to suppress turnout among poor and minority voters, they argue.
Paul said the confusion over the issue is "mainly in presentation and perception, not in reality."
"If they perceive, rightly or wrongly, that showing their ID is an attempt to get them not to vote because they perceive it in the lineage of a time when it truly did happen through poll taxes and questioning to try and prevent people, if they perceive it that way, we have to be aware that the perception is out there and be careful about not so overdoing something that we further alienate a block of people we need to attract," he told Hannity.
Paul said it would be better to discuss how the country's drug policies have restricted minority voters, and not the more controversial topic of voter ID legislation.
"Because Democrats play this game, we have to do a better job of presenting of what we're for as opposed to what we're against," he said. "And so rather than spending a lot of time talking about voter ID, I would rather spend my time saying, you know what, I think youthful non-violent offenders should get their voting rights back."
"Really to me what the discussion was about, is what we should emphasize and what we should talk about as opposed to whether states have the ability to get you to show your voter ID, I think obviously they do," he said. "But if we spend all our time talking about that and it is insulting to a group of people, we're doing the wrong thing if we're trying to win elections and attract people to our party."