In a 67-page study released Monday, the civil rights group found that 14 states have enacted some 25 measures that the organization terms a “coordinated assault” on voting rights in the African-American and other minority communities.
Of the 14 states that passed restrictive voting measures in 2011, four (Florida, Georgia, Texas and North Carolina) experienced the largest growth in their Black population over the past decade, and three (South Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee) had the highest growth in their Latino communities.
The NAACP says that the measures are a “block the vote” effort by state legislatures in response to the historic level of political participation by voters of color in the 2008 election.
“These new tactics will weaken the electoral strength of communities of color, students and the poor [and] attack the very electoral strength that made possible the nation’s first black president,” NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Jealous told reporters on a conference call Monday.
Some of the restrictive measures states have adopted include tightening voting requirements for people with felony convictions, reducing early or absentee voting opportunities and imposing photo ID requirements on Election Day. Advocates of the new laws argue that the greater restrictions are necessary to prevent voter fraud. In Florida, for example, between January 2008 and March 2011, 31 election fraud cases were referred to the Department of Law Enforcement for investigation. In the report, the NAACP argues, however, that cases of these crimes are extremely rare, citing as few as four instances of voter fraud out of a pool of more than 9 million in Ohio.
Voter rights have served as a centerpiece of the civil rights movement. For years, the efforts of the NAACP have been monumental in fighting for the rights and registration of Black voters. In 1965, when the Voting Rights Act was passed, the NAACP persuaded more than 80,000 African-Americans in Mississippi to register to vote. At that time 42 percent of the state’s population was African-American, but only 7 percent had registered to vote. The NAACP says that it’s “impossible” to overestimate how much the new laws are trying to roll back history and, because of that, action needs to be taken quickly.
"We as a democracy have to move quickly to correct these incursions, or history will judge our nation and the states who have done this very harshly," Jealous said.
The organization vowed, in addition to reaching out to secretaries of state, members of Congress and the Department of Justice, that they would also take its case to the United Nations.
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