Defending Democracy: Confronting Modern Barriers to Voting Rights in America
On December 5, 2011, the NAACP released a new report revealing direct connections between the trend of increasing, unprecedented African American and Latino voter turnout and an onslaught of restrictive measures across the country designed to stem electoral strength among communities of color.
The report, Defending Democracy: Confronting Modern Barriers to Voting Rights in America, details a plethora of voter suppression initiatives, most of them pushed in states with large African-American populations and where voting turnout has surged. The joint report by the NAACP and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund examines scores of legislative proposals, ballot initiatives and voting laws enacted or proposed since the 2008 election.
Copies of the report will be sent to the federal and state agencies that monitor, administer and enforce voting rights, including the US Department of Justice, the Federal Elections Commission, and the Election Assistance Commission, as well as Secretaries of State and Attorneys General in all 50 states. In addition, the report will be delivered to the appropriate committees of jurisdiction in the House and Senate, and entities within the United Nations.
"It's been more than a century since we've seen such a tidal wave of assaults on the right to vote. Historically, when voting rights are attacked, it's done to facilitate attacks on other rights. It is no mistake that the groups who are behind this are simultaneously attacking very basic women's rights, environmental protections, labor rights, and educational access for working people and minorities," said NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. "Voting rights attacks are the flip side of buying a democracy. First you buy all the leaders you can, and then you suppress as many votes as possible of the people who might object."
Successful registration, education and get-out-the-vote campaigns in the last Presidential election cycle helped overturn electoral barriers and generated Black voter turnout at record high numbers across the country. Calling the response "historic in scope and intensity," the report highlights voting barriers that range from new and enhanced voter identification requirements to provisions that will curtail voter access to registration. Other proposals challenge mass registration drives, limit voting periods and tighten the ability of newly registered voters to cast ballots.
The report maintains that the vote-blocking measures are not only a threat to individual voters, but are also an assault on Latino and African American communities that are enjoying demographic growth and the prospects of majority voting status in many districts.
"This assault — which is comprehensive in its reach and was launched in time to affect the 2012 elections — threatens to undermine the record levels of political participation witnessed during the historic 2008 Presidential Election, by blocking access to people of color, the poor, the elderly and the young," the report warns.
"These block the vote efforts are a carefully targeted response to the remarkable growth of the minority electorate, and threaten to disproportionally diminish the voting strength of African-Americans and Latinos," said John Payton, LDF President and Director-Counsel.
The report is released less than a week before the Stand For Freedom rally for voting rights. Held in New York City on December 10 — the United Nations' International Human Rights Day — the rally will begin with a mass protest at 61st and Madison Ave. and continue to Dag Hammarskjold Plaza across from the U.N.
The December 10 activities officially launch the NAACP's year-long public education and civic engagement project.
To learn more about Stand For Freedom, please visit www.stand4freedom.org.