With state legislatures across the country pushing through restrictive voting laws effectively suppressing the pool of eligible voters -- in many cases in minority communities -- the NAACP is fighting back.
The civil rights group kicked off their “This is My Vote” campaign in Georgia yesterday, an effort to combat suppressive voter-identification laws by registering hundreds of thousands of young minorities to vote.
The surge in voter registration efforts pushes back on an influx of Republican-led state legislatures that have put controversial voter ID laws on the books requiring voters to supply a government-issued identification, and in some cases prove citizenship, in order to vote.
NAACP President Ben Jealous has spoken out against voter ID laws, comparing them to modern-day "Jim Crow." And though black voters turned out in historic numbers for President Obama's election in 2008, Jealous yesterday warned of the legislative efforts to curb minority voter turnout.
"Were we students of history, we would've expected that night, when everybody was celebrating, that we needed to be preparing for what we're dealing with right now," he said, referring to election night 2008. "We saw the largest most diverse presidential electorate this country has ever seen."Every time that the vote has been expanded, especially for black people in this country, it has been followed by a massive backlash," Jealous added. "We will ensure that those who intend to steal this election cannot."
That backlash to a diverse electorate that Jealous speaks of could carry a distinct impact on upcoming elections. According to New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, 14 states have enacted, or are near to enacting restrictive voting legislation. In gauging the electoral impacts those laws, the Center goes on to say that the states with restrictive laws surmounts to 70 percent of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency.
Lawmakers on the conservative side of the aisle have chalked up arguments in favor of voter ID laws, warning that rampant voter fraud undercuts democracy. Take for example Texas governor Rick Perry, who in March spoke out on fighting fraud during an appearance on Fox News.
"I think any person who does not want to see fraud believes in having good, open, honest elections. Transparent. One of the ways to do that, one of the best ways to do that, is to have an identification, photo identification so that you prove who you are and you keep those elections fraud-free."
New York University’s Brennan Center also stipulates that fraud by individual voters is “both irrational and extremely rare.” They go on to say that voter fraud is about as likely to happen as someone being struck, and killed, by lightning, which at a rate of 0.00004 percent, we can safely say it almost never happens. (But don’t tell that to this poor dude.)