(The Root) — "Our duty today," said Barbara Arnwine, executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, before a crowd of African-American clergy members, "is to remember that the Bible tell us: 'For lack of knowledge, the people perish.' "
With this guiding mantra, the Congressional Black Caucus and the Conference of National Black Churches joined forces on Wednesday for their inaugural Faith Leaders Summit on Voting Rights. The Washington, D.C., forum, attended by members of Congress and about 200 leaders from black churches across the country, was designed to inform attendees about restrictive state-level voting laws passed around the country and to empower them to share with their home congregations information about surmounting subsequent voting obstacles.
The event's first panel summarized various laws that have passed around the nation from 2010 to 2012, including measures that do the following:
* Require people to present a birth certificate, or other proof of U.S. citizenship, in order to register to vote
* Require non-expired, state-issued photo identification in order to register and/or vote
* Eliminate same-day voter registration
* Levy stringent guidelines and penalties on third-party voter-registration drives
* Reduce or eliminate early voting periods (including the Sunday before elections, which counted for 32 percent of the African-American voter turnout in Florida in 2008)
* Bar people with criminal convictions from restoring their voting rights after they've paid their debts to society
"The majority of states where these laws have passed are the states that make up 60 to 75 percent of the electoral votes that will be required to elect our next president," said Nicole Austin-Hillery, director and counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice. "And who doesn't have state-issued photo ID? Eleven percent of all Americans lack photo ID. Eighteen percent of Americans over the age of 65 lack photo ID, and 25 percent of African Americans lack photo ID."
Cynthia Gordy is The Root's senior political correspondent.
Read the full story at theroot.com.
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(Photo: Birmingham News/Landov)