African American Voter Registration, Education, & Participation Project
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Increasing African American and urban voter registration, education, and participation through outreach to targeted communities in California. We've registered over 175,000 voters and counting since 2002!

Defending the Rights to Vote

Defending the Rights to Vote

by Ben Jealous, NAACP President & CEO

Our nation is in the midst of a tidal wave of coordinated attacks on the right to vote.  In the last two years more states have passed more laws blocking more people from the ballot box than in any time since the dawn of Jim Crow.  Despite these attacks, we have weathered the storm and are turning the tide to protect the voting rights of all Americans.

 

Since 2011, at least 180 restrictive bills have been introduced in 41 states, including California.  A total of sixteen states have passed restrictive voting laws and executive actions that could impact this year’s elections according to research developed by the Brennan Center for American Justice.

 

In states like Wisconsin, Mississippi, Kansas, Tennessee, Alabama, South Carolina and Pennsylvania, politicians erected barriers to the polls in the form of rigid photo ID requirements. In other states like Florida and Ohio, extremists made cuts to early voting opportunities and placed severe restrictions on third party voter registration efforts.

 

Studies abound prove that people of color, members of the working class, seniors, young adults, and women will have a harder time casting their ballot thanks to these laws. Many in these communities are less likely to have IDs that conform to the strict new rules, are more likely to use early voting hours and register through third party registrars.  Studies also prove that these new laws do nothing to ensure election integrity.  In fact, a recent report from News21 demonstrated that of the hundreds of millions of votes cast since 2000, there have been less than 10 cases of in-person voter fraud.

 

State politicians have also stripped the rights of former offenders in states like Florida and Iowa and worked to eliminate same-day voter registration in Maine and North Carolina. In addition, certain states have even launched targeted purges eliminating numbers of voting eligible African Americans and Latinos from voter rolls across the United States.

 

Unfortunately for these suppressive measures and their proponents, the NAACP and civil rights activists from across the country have taken a stand and stopped many of these restrictive laws from impacting voters in 2012.  And under Obama Administration, we have found a sympathetic U.S. Department of Justice willing to use the power accorded the Federal government under the 1965 Voting Rights Act to side with the civil rights community to ensure voter access. From Florida and Ohio where we helped restore early voting hours, to South Carolina, Michigan, and Pennsylvania where we halted strict voter photo ID measures for 2012, we are turning the tide in the fight for voting rights.

 

The NAACP will continue this fight after the election. Strict voter ID laws in Pennsylvania and South Carolina, and proof of citizenship laws in Kansas, have only been postponed until 2013; leaving room for improper implementation and discriminatory practices in future elections. The NAACP has also launched an intensive restoration of rights campaign to restore the rights of people with felony convictions across the United States, who are disproportionately  people of color.

 

In order to continue this push and win, however, all citizens who are able to vote must exercise their right to vote. Your participation is the only way to assert your voice in the political arena and secure the vote for future generations.

 

Benjamin Todd Jealous is the 17th President and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Original article appeared in the November 2012 edition of African American Voter REP Project’s Democrats in Faith Newsletter (Click here to view the full issue)

www.africanamericanvoterrep.org