It’s not a state secret that Democrats want desperately to regain control of the House in 2012, or that both they and President Obama will need every single vote they can get. But Republicans controlling several state legislatures are doing all they can to make the Democrats' mission as difficult as possible by implementing strict new voter laws that opponents predict could disenfranchise millions of voters.
Rep. John Conyers, ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, held a hearing on voting rights and new laws Monday during which civil rights advocates testified about their impact on African-Americans and other voters.
“This year we have seen several roadblocks to voting rights put up at the state level which would disproportionately disenfranchise racial and ethnic minorities, students, low-income Americans and the elderly,” NAACP Washington bureau chief Hilary Shelton testified. “These include proof of citizenship requirements, the elimination of same-day registration, a shortening of voting periods and the enactment of laws making it more difficult for nonpartisan third parties to register voters.”
Democrats have vowed to fight to have the laws overturned, which could be difficult while Republicans are still in control. But the Democrats say they also plan to hold forums in every state that has implemented or is considering making changes.
“Whatever rules that they put in place that we cannot get set aside, let’s make sure that every voter in every jurisdiction can comply with these rules so they can vote,” said House Majority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland).
Shelton told BET.com that the NAACP and other civil rights organizations are retooling themselves to be able to educate and help prepare voters to participate in the upcoming election. The civil rights group will monitor polling sites next fall.
Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Emanuel Cleaver (D-Missouri) also said that that his group will hold a “nationwide voter suppression tour” on the issue, similar to the town hall meetings it held on jobs last summer in key states. He said that the group will also register voters during those forums.
“I don’t want anyone to believe this is something we can just talk about,” Cleaver said. “We’ve got to have intentionality and we’ve got to also have opportunities to turn this whole process around.”
Barbara Arnwine, executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, announced that her organization plans to launch a smartphone application that will provide answers to frequently asked questions about voting rules in each state, help people get voter registration assistance and enable people to get texts, emails or calls in response to any questions or problems. When the application becomes available, voters will be able to access it by texting EAPP to 90975.
(Photo: UPI/Kevin Dietsch/LANDOV)