CNN's Carol Costello teed up a La Raza chairman on Monday by asking him if some new voter ID laws are tantamount to a "war on minority voters." A CNN headline later blared "Voting Rights on Trial," as if the laws were going after people's rights.
After playing a clip of Attorney General Eric Holder promising legal action against any discriminatory voter laws, Costello asked her guest Jorge Plasencia "Is there a war on minority voters in this country?" The two were discussing a new Texas voter ID law being challenged by the Justice Department.
Later on during the 1 p.m. hour, anchor Suzanne Malveaux teed up Ryan Haygood of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund to explain the "core issue" at stake. The NAACP has vowed to fight the new Texas voter ID law.
And Malveaux also relayed Eric Holder's attack on his critics to Haygood, asking him if Holder "has a point" that the supporters of the voter law against the Justice Department are "politically motivated."
Earlier in the morning, anchor Christine Romans was much less friendly to GOP Congressman Kevin Brady (Tex.). Romans threw a study from the liberal Brennan Center at Brady, citing that 11 percent of Americans – or 21 million citizens – do not possess a government issued photo ID.
"The Obama administration blocked the law because they say it's unfair to minority voters who are more likely to not have an identification. That's a significant number of people," Romans insisted, giving credence to the Obama talking points.
La Raza board chairman Jorge Plasencia danced around the issue during his interview with Costello, not condemning or praising the law. However, he did commend Eric Holder for speaking at the National Council of La Raza Convention on Saturday.
A transcript of the segment, which aired on Newsroom on July 9 at 10:15 a.m. EDT, is as follows:
[10:15 a.m. EDT]
CAROL COSTELLO: In a Washington courtroom, the U.S. Justice Department will challenge Texas' proposed law that will require voters to show identification. It claims minorities are being unfairly targeted.
ERIC HOLDER, Attorney General of the United States: In each of the jurisdictions where proposed changes can be shown to have no discriminatory purpose or effect, we'll follow the law, and we'll approve the change. Where jurisdictions cannot meet this threshold, we will object under the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and other laws, in order to guarantee that all eligible citizens have unrestricted access to the ballot box.
(End Video Clip)
COSTELLO: I wondered what you thought of what Eric Holder said. Is there a war on minority voters in this country?
JORGE PLASENCIA, chairman, Board of Directors, National Council of La Raza: You know what, NCLR is a non-partisan organization, but I should say that obviously we want all citizens to come out and vote, and we don't want obviously minorities to feel disenfranchised by showing up to the polls. So we hope that come November, all Hispanics feel like they can come out the polls and not feel intimidated in any way.
COSTELLO: There are a lot of people in this country who wonder just because you have to show a photo ID at a polling station, what's the big deal? Why would that keep a lot of voters home?
PLASENCIA: You know, it's not about – it's not about showing the photo ID. It's – do these laws, it's more about – because we have voter registration cards, we have our IDs. But is it do these laws in any way single out minorities? I think that's the bigger question.
COSTELLO: Do you think that these laws are singling out minorities?
PLASENCIA: You know, it's – again, it's – I would say that we want as many people, citizens – there's about 20 million Hispanics that are eligible to vote, and we're hearing that about 12 million will show up this November. So we just want to make sure that they show up, and they don't feel, again, intimidated in any way. That's all this is.
COSTELLO: Do they feel intimidated by these laws?
PLASENCIA: Do I?
COSTELLO: No, do they? Do these voters – do some Latino voters feel intimidated by these laws?
PLASENCIA: You know, it's – we're going through an interesting time as you know, in the history of our community, and obviously there's been a lot of – on both sides there's been a lot of conversation about Latinos and laws. So anything – any law in any state, and obviously Texas is a very important state with a lot of Hispanics, so any of these laws that in any way make our community feel like it could be disenfranchised from our process here in this country, obviously we we're concerned about. We're concerned if this would stop somebody from going to a poll.
COSTELLO: You seem to be treading very carefully in your answers around this issue. Why?
PLASENCIA: I don't tread carefully. I just obviously, like I said, NCLR is a non-partisan organization, and we're going to keep our ear to the ground on this issue, and we applaud Eric Holder for coming out to our conference to speak for – speaking to our community, and we feel that obviously this is an issue that's very important, and we just want to get as many Hispanics out as possible that are eligible to vote, that are citizens, to vote. I was at a naturalization ceremony here at Las Vegas on Friday, where folks from 18 countries, Hispanics and non-Hispanics, made their pledge as Americans at the ceremony, and we want all those folks to come out to vote. We want to make sure that they register, and that they get to the polls.
COSTELLO: If you look at polls, and I'm talking about general polls out there, it shows that President Obama is way far ahead among Latino voters than is Mitt Romney. Do the polls show the entire picture?
PLASENCIA: You know, it's interesting. Historically, the Democratic Party has definitely gotten more of the vote in the Hispanic community. In 2004, in the general election, George W. Bush got 44 percent of the vote. So it's going to be interesting to watch this time. A recent Gallup poll showed how more and more Hispanics are feeling disenfranchised with both parties, and are – may vote in the – may be independent at this point. So I think our vote is definitely up for grabs. That said, like you were saying, at this point President Obama is showing like he's ahead in the polls in our community.