Just as AI predicted, Rep. Bill Crawford (D-Indianapolis) was one of the first African-American leaders to speak out against Rokita's comment. An AP story quotes Crawford as saying, "What compulsion? We don't intimidate," Crawford said. "We don't buy votes. He needs to apologize to the people he offended, the people that he called ignorant and uninformed, and that is 90 percent of those African-Americans who choose to vote their level of interest as they define it for Democrats."
Rokita's comments could not have come at a worse time. He is helping defend the state's voter ID law in a lawsuit brought against the state in federal court by several plaintiffs, including Rep. Crawford. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals recently affirmed a trial court judge's ruling here in Indianapolis upholding the law. Rokita's comments have not gone unnoticed in election law circles. The Election Law Blog caught up with AI's post from Saturday today. Rich Hasen writes critically of Rokita:
Finally on Crawford, I've been quite critical of Indiana Sec. of State Todd Rokita for his stance on some voter identification/voter fraud issues. I am now troubled by these new remarks of Secretary Rokita, not only because it might be a "Don Imus moment," but more fundamentally I am bothered by this: why is a state's chief elections officer addressing his political party trying to inspire county GOP members to stick together as group and as a team to win:
Rokita, who won re-election in 2006, quoted the dinner's namesakes of Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan to inspire county GOP members to stick together as group and as a team to win. "We need to be absolute and proud of our history," Rokita said. "I think we've forgotten how to do that. I think we've forgotten sometimes what we're about and the national media doesn't help us in that regard and the liberals certainly don;t help us in that regard.
"In a sense, that's what they are there to do and we can't blame them. What we have to do is remind ourselves of what we've done for this country and what we're going to do for this country...that we are still the party of purpose and not the party of 'No'" Rokita added.
That this is an acceptable topic for a public speech by a state's chief elections officer is one of the biggest scandals of all.
As I said before, I do not believe Rokita intentionally set out to offend African-Americans, but he should have chosen his words more wisely than he did. I suspect he was not aware his comments were being recorded at the Republican gathering in Daviess County last week. He was wise to quickly issue an apology today, but it remains to be seen whether the issue goes away any time soon. The plaintiffs in the voter ID lawsuit will no doubt use Rokita's unguarded comments to their advantage at least in the public debate, if not in the legal debate as they ponder whether to take their case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Star's Mary Beth Schneider has a story on the apology here.