Monday, January 16, 2012

NAACP King Day mission statement:
Expanding the electorate

Regardless of the content of their addresses Monday morning at the annual "King Day at the Dome" rally at the State House in Columbia, S.C., the joint appearance of NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder speaks volumes in and of itself. Monday marks the first time Holder will have been in the Palmetto State since Dec. 23, when the U.S. Department of Justice struck down its new voter photo ID law, which DOJ says would likely have disenfranchised minorities, students and disabled voters alike.

The optics of their joint appearance -- the leader of the nation's oldest and most storied civil rights organization and the country's top law-enforcement officer -- sends a signal about the intent, through legal challenges and social advocacy, to make voting rights a high priority in an already contentious election year. The rally takes place five days before the South Carolina primary.

The United States is a nation with a patchwork of laws on voter identification -- some states with strict policies, others with no policy at all. Thirty-one states require voters to show IDs before voting. In 2011, eight states -- Alabama, Kansas, Mississippi, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin -- enacted variations of the same rule, requiring some form of photo identification. Critics of the laws argue that they disenfranchise voters of color and young voters, who are less likely to possess and be able to afford the required identification.

In an interview with The Root before his South Carolina address, Jealous spoke about the importance of the Justice Department action against South Carolina, the possible impact of new voter ID laws and the strategies for blunting their potentially suppressive impact on voter turnout in the 2012 election. ...

Read my interview with Ben Jealous in The Root

Image credits: South Carolina MLK Day rally: AP/Mary Ann Chastain. Jealous: Rainier Ehrhardt/Reuters.

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