THE ISSUE: Within the past year, many states have enacted measures which will have the result of restricting access to the voting booth. These new laws are in stark opposition to the NAACP’s mission and mandate, which has been to strengthen our nation’s democracy and the civil rights and civil liberties of all Americans by maximizing voter participation and protecting voters’ rights. Throughout our more than 102-year history, the NAACP has advocated and worked against such racist and heinous obstacles as America’s Jim Crow laws and the Black Codes.
Tragically, our country, which promotes itself as the beacon of democracy throughout the world, has seen a reversal at the state level in the century-old struggle for achieving the goal of “one person, one vote.” This reversal has been strategic and multi-faceted and sadly targeted disproportionately at the very people who could use a louder, more consistent voice with our elected officials. Specifically, a majority of those currently being disenfranchised by these malevolent laws are racial and ethnic minorities, low-income Americans, the elderly, students and women.
Whether through bogus and disingenuous photo identification requirements, racially disparate ex-felon disenfranchisement laws, shortened early voting periods, or initiatives making it harder for third parties to register qualified voters, states are abridging the voting rights of millions of Americans. One respected report has found that more than five million Americans could be affected, and lose their Constitutional right to vote, by the new rules already put in place this year.
The NAACP strongly opposes these mean spirited, anti-democratic voter suppression measures and supports several initiatives at the federal level which are intended to expand voting rights and voter participation. Among the federal initiatives we support are:
- H.R. 108, the Voting Opportunity and Technology Enhancement Rights Act of 2011, which among other things guarantees early voting throughout the country; allows same-day registration nationally; and allows ex-offenders, once they are out of prison, the opportunity to register and vote in federal elections;
- H.R. 2212, the Democracy Restoration Act, which allows ex-offenders, once they are out of prison, the opportunity to register and vote in federal elections;
- H.R. 3316, the Voter Access Protection Act of 2011, which would prohibit election officials from requiring individuals to provide photo identification as a condition of obtaining or casting a ballot in an election for Federal office or registering to vote in elections for Federal office; and
- H.R. 3317, the Same Day Voter Registration Act of 2011, which require all States to provide for same day voter registration.