Gordon Fox, the conservative Speaker of the Rhode Island House of Representatives, sent shock waves through the Democratic Party when he got a voter ID law passed. Ignoring a plea from the Chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, Fox created a publicity nightmare for the Democrats and a beloved talking point for the right. That is why it is so critical that he’s now reversed his position, according to reporting from Ian Donnis of NPR. This is a huge win for the Rhode Island left!
I want to thank the more than 1,800 concerned citizens who signed our petition to repeal the law. I want to thank Jim Vincent and the NAACP for their tireless work fighting to restore voting rights. I want to thank the new Providence DSA chapter, which made repealing voter ID their top priority. But most of all, I want to thank every member of Fox’s liberal district who called him to ask him to change his position. When DSA and the Progressive Democrats canvassed Fox’s district to pressure him to change his position, I was overwhelmed by the response we got on the doors. People really understood the issue, they were furious about it, and they made their voices heard. This victory belongs to them.
Experienced observers of the state house will note that Fox routinely blocks legislation he publicly supports. In 2013, although he endorsed an assault weapons ban, he still denied it a vote, effectively killing the extremely popular bill and earning himself some glowing praise from Tea Party Representative Doreen Costa. (I personally suspect the thousands of dollars he took from the NRA might have had something to do with it.)
During the 2012 election, he promised to introduce a sunset to the voter ID law. In 2013, not only did he break that promise, but he actually tried to tighten the law even further. By keeping the amended version of the repeal bill secret until right before the House Judiciary Committee voted on it, Fox tricked the pro-voting members of the committee into voting for a bill that would allow even fewer IDs to be accepted at the polls in 2014. Fortunately, Representative Larry Valencia, who sponsored the bill, was able to pull it before it reached the floor.
So we will still have a huge fight ahead of us. But Fox’s reversal means we might just win this battle.