REPORTING FROM CHARLOTTE — At a Democratic National Convention luncheon, Rev. Al Sharpton called on African-American ministers to travel to states where restrictive voter identification laws have been enacted to urge Black and Latino voters to get the documentation needed to go to the polls in November.
Sharpton, who is the head of the National Action Network and an MSNBC host, called for what he calls a state of emergency regarding the altered voting laws in several states. He has asked for the ministers to visit those states within the next month.
“This is no joke,” Sharpton said, referring to the voter identification laws that have swept several states. “The disenfranchising of 5 million people in this country is nothing short of revoking the Voting Rights Act.”
The spread of voter identification laws across dozens of states has emerged as the issue that has galvanized civil rights groups. Sharpton and others, such as the NAACP, have sought to fight the new laws in court with mixed results.
The Sharpton event signaled the emergence of a strategy that recognizes that some of these laws will remain in place. As a result, Sharpton and others are now focusing on getting Black and Latino citizens the identification they need to successfully cast ballots in the November election.
“We have to leave here and work and work,” Sharpton said. “We have to leave here and get people to register and get their voter IDs.”
Many Black ministers have been critical of President Obama’s support of same-sex marriage. And there has been some concern among Democratic leaders that those criticisms might lead to a dampening of their political involvement this year.
Sharpton addressed that issue head on.
“We have been called to do a work, and we preach about judgment,” Sharpton said. “But I don’t believe you can go before God knowing that health care would be provided, that people would be given work, but that you wouldn’t stand up for them because two gays were getting married downtown. I don’t think that will wash in judgment.”
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(Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)