Ben Jealous talks with BET.com about voters' rights.
The NAACP’s 102nd convention may be over, but the message that the historic civil rights organization wants to get across is not.
“We want folks to go back focused fighting to defend, restore and expand voting rights in this country,” NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous told BET.com.
Starting in August, the NAACP will be holding trainings in dozens of states preparing people to forcefully get involved in registering voters and helping voters navigate some of the obstacles that have been thrown in their paths.
“We are looking at the most aggressive attempt to roll back access to the ballot booth since 1896 and it’s come in most places in the form of state voter ID bills, to require people to have a state voter ID in order to vote at the ballot booth,“ he said.
ID requirement laws have recently started to appear all over the country. In Texas, for example, when going to vote only a driver’s license or gun ID will be accepted along with your voter ID card.
In Wisconsin, 50 percent of Blacks and 50 percent of Latinos would not currently be eligible to vote because they do not have a state issued ID. In some states, according to Jealous, as many as seventy-five percent of young Blacks between 18 and 25 don’t have ID. Jealous describes the new laws as an “obstructive and aggressive” way to block access to the ballot booth.
Some states are not only requiring citizens to have a state issued ID when voting, but also when registering. Currently Georgia and Arizona have these voter registration laws.
“How does one do a voter registration effectively when you have to push a Xerox machine down the street with you? It just can’t happen. It’s meant to jam up voter registration efforts, “Jealous says.
Jealous says that voter ID and registration ID laws have been compared to Jim Crow, but he says disenfranchisement laws “are basically Jim Crow.”
In Florida, for example, formerly incarcerated victims have to wait five to seven years before they can vote, a new law that the NAACP is saying will disqualify over 500,000 people and 250,000 Blacks in the upcoming election.
“There’s very specific information being changed for cynical and political reasons and that means we have a big job to do,“ he said.
To check your voter ID status, visit your city’s secretary of state office.
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(Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images for NAACP)