In his latest appeal to voters who don't traditionally fall into his party's mold, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, on Thursday scorned Republican-led attempts to restrict voting rights for minorities.
"So many times, Republicans are seen as this party of, 'We don't want black people to vote because they're voting Democrat; we don't want Hispanic people to vote because they're voting Democrat,'" he said during remarks at the Liberty Political Action Conference in Alexandria, Virginia. "We wonder why the Republican Party is so small. Why don't we be the party that's for people voting, for voting rights?"
Paul supports various state laws that have surfaced across the country requiring voters to voters to show a photo ID at polling places. Civil rights groups have censured that requirement, arguing such requirements disenfranchise some black voters who don't have and ID and can't get one.
Still, the libertarian-leaning crowd tendered fertile turf for Paul to marry his support for hands-off-government-fueled privacy policies and civil rights-inspired criminal justice reforms. He has long made the case that millions of people across the country are prevented from voting because they have criminal records.
To rectify that, Paul has introduced legislation in Congress that would restore voting rights to some convicted felons and make it easier to expunge criminal records, among other things. His latest bill would impose the same sentences for powder and crack cocaine offenses. The majority of people arrested for crack cocaine is African-American.
Also coming out strong against police militarization - a campaign he launched in the wake of violent protests that erupted in Ferguson, Missouri last month after an unarmed teenager was shot dead by an officer - Paul argued that while "you want your police to be aggressive," in many drug-related incidents that aggression is taken unreasonably far.
"If someone's got some pot, you want to break down the door at two in the morning with masks and gas and concussion grenades?" he asked. "I think it's a little crazy to have this war on drugs gone so far."
The tactic aimed at minority voters comes as Paul readies a likely bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. He implored his party Thursday to make overtures to return to the GOP's essentially defunct big-tent philosophy.
"The bottom line is, we're not winning," Paul said. "...We're not winning because, it's pretty simple, we don't have enough people in the group yet. The liberty movement has been more open to receiving people of all walks of life... I think we have been much more open, sometimes, than the Republican Party in general."