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Public Statements

MSNBC "Hardball with Chris Matthews" - Transcript

Interview

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So, what -- tell me -- speak now to the young people out there, as
well as the older people. Why is this issue of voting rights and what you
achieved back in `65 important today?

REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: Well, Chris, thank you so much for
having me.

I truly believe, I really do, in my heart, in my gut, that the vote is
the most powerful nonviolent tool we have in a democratic society. And we
must use it. We must use it, or we will lose it. It doesn`t matter
whether you are low-income, whether you`re middle-income or whether you`re a billionaire. We all have one vote.

And every single vote must be counted. So it is important that people
go out, register, and vote like you never voted before. I think, Chris,
there`s a deliberate, systematic attempt to win or steal this election
before it takes place with the voter I.D., ending early voting, making it
almost impossible for young people, for students, for our seniors, for
minorities to participate, for the disabled to participate.

It`s a sin. It is obscene to tell people that it is going to be hard,
it`s going to be tough for you to cast a vote. That`s not right. It`s not
fair and it`s not just.

MATTHEWS: Mr. Lewis, I hear every word you say. And I`m worried,
worried, worried about this.

I`m going to talk about it at the end of the show. I`m up here in
Pennsylvania, which has just passed a law, it`s been signed by the
Republican governor, passed by a Republican legislature, that says you need
a government-issued photo I.D. card. If you don`t have one on Election Day
this year, and you cast a vote, all you get is a provisional vote that
doesn`t become a real vote unless you, within six days, show up with a
government-issued I.D. card, photo I.D. card.

What are people who want to have everybody vote going to be able to do
about these laws that have already been put in the books?
LEWIS: Well, I`m very worried also, Chris.

That`s why a group of my colleagues, more than 130 members of the
Democratic House, have introduced a piece of legislation. It probably will
not get passed in this Congress. But we want people to use it to organize,
to mobilize, and when we take back the majority, we will pass a voter act
that would improve the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

People cannot use an excuse of not having a voter I.D. In some
communities all across America, churches are providing people about with a
voter I.D. But a voter I.D. is almost like a poll tax. It is the form of
a literacy test, saying to people, like in the state of Texas, even a
student I.D. cannot qualify. But a gun permit I.D. will qualify.

MATTHEWS: I know.

LEWIS: That is obscene.

MATTHEWS: Well, what happens if this November we get up Wednesday
morning, Congressman, and we realize that a state like Pennsylvania has
gone for Romney, not because most people wanted Romney over Obama in
Pennsylvania, but that most people or a lot of people weren`t allowed to
vote because they live in row houses, they don`t own an automobile?
Like, my grandparents were like that. And neighborhoods that are now
African-Americans, the same row houses, these people are older. They`re
city people. They use the subway. They use mass transportation. They
don`t own cars. They don`t have driver`s licenses.

And, by the way, once you`re 75 or 85 years old, you don`t want to be
driving a car.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: So the question is, how do they get voter I.D. cards with a
picture on it?

LEWIS: Well, I think, right now, not waiting until October or November, but the Lawyers` Committee for Civil Rights, the ACLU, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and different voters groups must go into court and get an injunction against these states, county government for using this form to try to discourage people from participating.

To be able to cast a vote should be very simple, like getting a glass
of fresh water.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I agree with you. Same-day registration would be fine
with me.

Hey, thank you.

And, once again, here is your book, "Across the River" -- "Across That
Bridge." How can I say "Across the River"? "Across That Bridge," your
great history of civil rights and your involvement in it.

It`s an honor to have you on, Congressman John Lewis of Georgia.

LEWIS: Well, thank you very much.

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