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NAACP Looks to UN in Fight Against Increasing US Voter Suppression
The NAACP is sending representatives next week to a session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland to argue that minority community members are facing clear voter suppression efforts in the United States, NAACP President Ben Jealous said during a press call on Thursday.
McClatchy reports: "The Geneva appearance is part of an NAACP strategy rooted in the 1940s and 1950s, when the group looked to the United Nations and the international community for support in its domestic battle for civil rights for blacks and against lynching."
"This will be the first time in decades that we as an organization are before the council with a specific complaint about actions being taken here in the US," Jealous said during the call. "The first time was in 1947, when W.E.B. Du Bois delivered his speech and appealed to the world." And continued:
"Now, like then, the principal concern is voting rights. In the past year, more states have passed more laws, pushing more voters out of the ballot box, than at any point since the rise of Jim Crow. We have seen ... voters have their votes blocked by specific states like South Carolina, Texas, Mississippi, Wisconsin and so forth during the past 12 months. These include strict voter-ID bills, so-called registration-ID bills, bans on formerly incarcerated people voting and a range of other mechanisms that diminish access to the polls among minority populations."
Since last year, 15 states have passed new voting laws; currently 38 states, including some of those 15, are weighing legislation to require people to show government-approved photo identification or provide proof of citizenship before casting their ballots.
Other changes adopted or under consideration by states include restricting voter registration drives by third-party groups such as the League of Women Voters and the NAACP; curtailing or eliminating early voting; doing away with same-day voter registration; and rescinding the right to vote of convicted felons who have served their time. [...]
The NAACP, civil liberties groups, voting experts and some lawmakers say the new laws smack of poll taxes and literacy tests — devices that in previous generations blocked blacks from voting.
A study last year by New York University's Brennan Center for Justice said the new laws "may sharply tilt the political terrain for the 2012 election" by restricting voting access to 5 million people — most of them minority, elderly, young or low-income earners.
States that have adopted new laws account for 171 electoral votes in 2012 — or 63 percent of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency, the Brennan Center report said.
The study also found that more than 21 million Americans don't possess government-issued photo identification. The NAACP estimates that about 25 percent of African-Americans nationwide don't possess the proper documentation to meet ID requirements.
The Root.com adds:
It is unknown how binding a U.N. recommendation would be, Jealous acknowledged. But a negative ruling would help shame state officials into doing the right thing, he said. Such a ruling could hurt states in the pocketbook because many leaders seek investments overseas, he said. "It's not good business to be seen as an active abuser of human rights," he said.
The NAACP is scheduled to make an oral presentation on March 14 and afterward will present its report titled "Defending Democracy: Confronting Modern Barriers to Voting Rights in America" (pdf), which was released in December. The report found that 11 percent of Americans do not have government-issued identification. Among African Americans, 25 percent do not have the documents required to vote.
The report also noted that 14 states, mostly Republican-led, have enacted 25 restrictive voting measures. Legislators in states that have passed the measures say the laws are important because they help prevent identity fraud at the ballot box.
Lastly, Jealous added: "The U.N. is the world's forum for both promoting and defending democracy. In these hyper-partisan times in the U.S., we believe it is important for them to weigh in on what is happening here in our democracy. Our democracy is precious, not just to the citizens of this country but to the world."