Two leading Republican presidential candidates expressed divergent views on the Voting Rights Act on Thursday, setting up a split within a party that has been accused of seeking to suppress minority voter turnout in the name of combating fraud at the polls. Asked about the law at a forum in Des Moines, Mr. Bush said he was uncomfortable placing “regulations on top of states as though we’re living in 1960.” “There’s been dramatic improvement in access to voting,” he said, adding, “I don’t think there’s a role for the federal government in play in most places — there could be some — but in most places where they did have a constructive role in the ′60s.”
He did not detail any changes he might prefer at the state level, but concerning the 1965 federal act, he said he did not support “reauthorizing it as is.”
Most Republican candidates tend to agree with Mr. Bush, but Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon who is in second in most polls of Republican voters, did not.
Saying that he wanted the Voting Rights Act to be protected, Mr. Carson told CNN: “Whether we still need it or not, whether we’ve outgrown the need for it, it’s questionable. Maybe we have. Maybe we haven’t. But I wouldn’t jeopardize it.”