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Public Statements

MSNBC "The Rachel Maddow Show" - Transcript

Interview

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It`s Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from the great state of Vermont, who caucuses with the Democrats.

Senator Sanders, it`s nice to have you here. Thank you for your time tonight.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: Good to be with you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Why did you request the study on voting law and voter registration law changes in the states?

SANDERS: Well, it`s clear to me, Rachel, that what right wing Republicans are doing is trying to suppress the vote. What they are trying to do and I have to tell you I really think it`s an absolute outrage,
people can have differences of opinion, but to go out of your way to try to make it harder for poor people, for minorities, for students, for older people to participate in our democratic process is totally unacceptable to
me.

So, what we want is the General Accountability Office to document such issues as how extensive is voter fraud in this country? My understanding is thank goodness it is not a serious problem at all. And I want to use that study to expose what the Republicans are doing.

Also, we want documentation of exactly how many people would be impacted by these voter suppression laws.

MADDOW: We have been following a lot of these laws in individual states as they have been enacted. Today, in fact, was the first election - - a series of municipal elections in Wisconsin which photo ID was required
in Wisconsin. These things have been going in effect since Republicans won so many governorships and state legislature seats in the 2010 elections.

I have heard people say that as many as 21 million Americans may not have the ID that Republicans are trying to require to vote. Do you think that these laws are so sweeping that they could affect the outcome in
national elections?

SANDERS: Oh, absolutely. I mean, what you`re talking about is sometimes we forget, you know, not everybody is middle class. There are a lot of poor people who do not own cars, who do not have drivers` licenses, a lot of old people don`t drive as well. They do not have in many cases government-issued IDs.

And then what the states are doing is making it very, very difficult and sometimes expensive for poor people, for old people to get to the places they have to go in order to get these photo IDs.

Very few people I think who study this issue doubt that what the Republicans are about in this area is simply making it harder for those people who might vote against them to participate in the political process.

And if I might say, Rachel, this is the other side of what Citizens United is about. Citizens United is to give billionaires and corporations the opportunity to buy elections and candidates -- and voter suppression is
the effort to deny those people who will vote against the Republican agenda the right to participate in the political process.

MADDOW: Because -- I was highlighting the it`s OK if you`re a Republican, the do as I say, not as I do aspects of this in order to point out this does not seem to be a universal concern about voter fraud. And
the groups you describe as having the least access to photo IDs, which is the thing that is being put up as a hurdle to voting in this country tend to be people that vote Democratic and therefore these changes will benefit Republicans.

When you look at all these things together, it makes me wonder if you as a senator, when you talk to your Republican colleagues, when you talk to Republicans in your home state of Vermont, are there Republicans who are concerned about how difficult these state law changes are making it to vote or this is really purely a partisan thing?

SANDERS: I think this is 100 percent partisan. It goes even further than we`ve talked about. They are trying to create a situation where if you`re a college student, you can`t use your college ID card to register to vote.

They are trying to roll back same day registration. Eight states have same day registration where you can register on the day you vote. There are states that want to repeal that, they want to repeal or move back early voting which has been very, very successful in getting more people to participate.

The bottom line is that some of us think that in a democratic society, the goal is to bring as many people as possible into the political process. It`s very clear what the Republicans want to do is drive as many people,
especially poor people, old people, minorities, out of the political process. And that is just reprehensible.

MADDOW: Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont -- thank you for being with us tonight, sir. It`s nice to see you. Thank you for being here.

SANDERS: Thank you.

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