Monday on “The Daily Show,” John Oliver harshly condemned Southern Republicans for enacting strict new voting restrictions in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Following the controversial decision, which struck down a key provision of the landmark civil rights bill requiring federal approval of changes to voting laws in states with a history of racial discrimination, the GOP had, according to Oliver, enacted a “Sharknado of voter suppression” in places like Florida, Texas and North Carolina.
“Imagine your voting rights subjected to this,” he said, rolling a gruesome clip from the much-buzzed-about Syfy B-movie in which one particularly unfortunate man is eaten, then squashed to death, by windswept sharks.
A touch of hyperbole? Perhaps. But Oliver spent the next five minutes carefully enumerating the “tidal wave of state-level restrictions” underway across Dixie. He began in Texas, where the state’s attorney general reinstituted a strict voter ID law a mere two hours after the Supreme Court decision was announced.
“Come on Texas, what were you doing for two whole hours? Did it take you that long to make the call because your hand was shaking from the excitement of being able to disenfranchise voters?” Oliver wondered.
Then it was on to Florida, where a lawsuit preventing a statewide purge of “suspected non-citizens” was dismissed, thanks to the Supreme Court verdict. “Ah, yes, Florida -- where your grandparents and your rights go to die,” mused Oliver, who’s made no secret of his antipathy for the Sunshine State.
But, he argued, the surprise contender for “most draconian voting rights legislation” actually comes from North Carolina, where a sweeping Republican-backed bill would cut early voting in half, eliminate same-day registration and require a state-issued photo in order ID to vote.
“And it doesn’t stop there,” Oliver said. “It also places all voting booths on buoys that are only accessible by yacht.”
He wasn’t buying the claim that the new laws were being implemented in order to halt voter fraud, since there was exactly one documented case in the state in 2012.
“One guy out of 4.5 million people who voted in the last election. Honestly, you could have gotten the same result by just passing a bill that said ‘Dave can’t vote, he knows why,’” Oliver quipped.
The real reason for the new laws, he argued, had to do with the fact that, according to North Carolina’s board of elections, a third of voters without the required photo ID are African American.
“And there it is,” Oliver concluded. “It goes to show it’s true: always bet on black.”