NAACP, SEIU 1199, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK, UFT, NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE, N.Y. CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION, NATIONAL COUNCIL OF LA RAZA, ADVANCEMENT PROJECT, ASIAN-AMERICAN LEGAL DEFENSE FUND, HISPANIC FEDERATION, NAACP LEGAL DEFENSE FUND AND OTHERS JOIN COALITION TO STOP VOTER SUPPRESSION EFFORTS NATIONWIDE
NEW YORK, NY— NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous and 1199SEIU President George Gresham joined civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton, National Urban League President Marc Morial, Hispanic Federation President Lillian Rodríguez López, United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew, President of the New York Civil Liberties Union President Donna Lieberman, Asian-American Legal Defense & Education Fund Executive Director Margaret Fung and others today at City Hall to announce the “Stand for Freedom” voting rights campaign. The coalition of nearly 20 groups also announced plans for a major mobilization on December 10th – United Nations Human Rights Day – to protest the attack on voting rights throughout the country.
Stand for Freedom is an aggressive nationwide effort to stop changes to state election laws that would suppress the rights of millions of Americans to vote in 2012 and beyond.
“We are in the midst of the greatest coordinated legislative attack on voting rights since the dawn of Jim Crow,” said Jealous. “Voter ID laws are nothing but reincarnated poll taxes and literacy tests, and ex-felon voting bans serve the same purpose today as when they were created in the wake of the 15th Amendment guaranteeing ex-slaves the vote—suppressing voting numbers among people of color.”
“The so-called problem of voter fraud is a myth, the percentage is miniscule,” said George Gresham, President of 1199SEIU. “These new laws are suddenly being pushed after the historic 2008 presidential election when Americans headed to the polls in droves. Now as we prepare for the 2012 elections, it’s difficult to believe that this isn’t some kind of ploy to keep poor people, working people, or people of color away from the polls.”
In dozens of states, new rules will create a modern-day poll tax by requiring voters to obtain and present official photo ID in order to cast a ballot. In many of these same states, new laws significantly cut early voting and Sunday voting opportunities as well.
“National Action Network and I see the assault on voters with Voter ID laws, the end of early voting, and other measures as a blatant attempt to undermine the Voter Rights Act,” said Rev. Al Sharpton, President, National Action Network. “The Nation cannot honor Dr. King and undo his work at the same time. We will fight it in the courts and in the streets.”
“From the beginning of our nation’s founding, Americans have understood that voting was fundamental to their pursuit of freedom and equal opportunity,” said Lillian Rodríguez López, President of the Hispanic Federation. “Any attempt to undermine the right to vote, especially when that effort is directed at historically marginalized groups, must be treated as an attack on the very ideals that created our country: democracy and equality. And that is why we stand up for freedom and continue to fight for the right to vote for all Americans.”
African-Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, Native Americans, seniors, students, working women and immigrants will be disproportionately affected by the new laws, since many in these communities are less likely to have identification that complies with these strict rules.
“These block the vote efforts are a response to two factors: the unprecedented levels of political participation in 2008 by voters of color, and significant growth by communities of color, as reflected in the 2010 Census,” concluded John Payton, LDF President and Director-Counsel. “This is a call to action for us to empower those communities to confront and to overcome this voting rights assault.”
While voters in some states can request free photo IDs from state motor vehicles departments, they must still pay to obtain underlying documents, such as birth certificates, necessary to get the photo ID, possibly discouraging them from voting as a result.
“Now, just as before, they are seeking to block us from voting in order to make it easier to come after our other rights,” Said Mike Mulgrew, President of the United Federation of Teachers. “Everything we care about is at stake, from the right to a quality education to the right to a fair wage.”
“We are standing up for the fundamental pillar of our democracy,” said Judith Browne-Dianis, Co-Director of the Advancement Project. “Election Day is the one time we are all equal in America- rich or poor, black, Latino, Asian, Native American or white, young or old, we can all cast an equal vote to determine the shape of our government. Next year, millions of people could be barred from the voting booth. We cannot allow our rights to be stolen.”
“Instead of getting in the way of civic engagement, we should be working together to encourage all Americans to exercise their right to vote,” said New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman.
Supporters of the new legislation, which according to The New York Times has advanced in 13 states over the past two months, claim the new rules prevent voter fraud, but opponents contend they create roadblocks to deter voters.
Rafael Collazo, Campaign Political Director for the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), added “It’s just plain dishonest to claim that you are cutting back the days people can early vote or eliminating them entirely to cut down on fraud—there’s just no link between the two and we cannot allow the proponents of these laws to continue using false arguments with the American people.”
According to a report recently released by the Brennan Center for Justice, at least 38 states are considering or have considered voter ID and/or proof of citizenship laws including: New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Delaware. The battleground states of Ohio and Pennsylvania were among those actively moving forward on voter ID legislation.
Hazel Dukes, President of the NAACP NYS Conference, added, “It is truly disheartening to see that nearly 50 years after passage of landmark Civil Rights legislation, our nation has not fully embraced the idea of change and equality. The enactment of these state election laws is a reflection of a troubled past that we are forced to relive, and will only continue to impede progress of America and its people.”
National Urban League President Marc Morial contended, “Attacks on voting rights are nothing short of attacks on democracy itself. We join with the NAACP in standing for freedom to resist these systemic attacks on voting rights.”
“For nearly a century, there were Jim Crow laws in place that discouraged people of color from voting, said Wade Henderson, President and CEO of The Leadership Council on Civil and Human Rights. “Today, there are different laws, but the objective is the same—to prevent millions from exercising their right to vote.”