The NAACP calls these voter suppression efforts the “most vicious, coordinated and sinister attack to narrow participation in our democracy since the early 20th century.”
Fourteen states have passed 25 laws unfairly restricting the right to vote, among black and Hispanic voters in particular. These fourteen states are among the fastest growing in the number of blacks (Florida, Georgia, Texas, North Carolina) and the number of Latinos (South Carolina, Alabama, and Tennessee). The NAACP insists that this no coincidence, since these same populations turned out in record numbers to vote in the 2008 presidential election, voting heavily Democratic.
In that year, black and Hispanic voters turned out in record numbers, partly in a wave of enthusiasm for Barack Obama. More than 2 million extra black voters turned out over 2004, an increase of 15%.
Among Latinos, the upturn was even more pronounced. Two million additional voters attended the polls – a rise of 28% on the previous presidential election.
Ethnic minority groups are not the only electorate at risk of losing their voting rights. Other traditionally Democratic voting groups, such as college students, seniors and poorer Americans, are also vulnerable.
In Texas, a law was recently passed that prevents students from voting when using their college ID cards, while allowing anyone to cast their ballot if they present a permit to carry a concealed handgun.
Four states – Florida, Iowa, Kentucky and Virginia – restrict the right to vote from those convicted of a criminal offense. In Florida, offenders who have completed their sentences have to wait at least another five years before they can even apply to restore their right to register to vote.
Across the US, more than 5 million Americans are denied the right to vote on grounds that they were convicted of a felony, 4 million of whom have fully completed their sentence and almost half of whom are black or Hispanic.
Other measures have reduced the ease of early voting, a convenience that is disproportionately heavily used by African-Americans. Even more importantly, 34 states have introduced a requirement that voters carry photo ID cards on the day of the election itself.
Studies have showed that the proportion of voters who do not have access to valid photo ID cards is much higher among older African-Americans because they were not given birth certificates in the days of segregation. Students and young voters also often lack identification and are thus in danger of being stripped of their right to vote.
Benjamin Jealous, the NAACP's president, said the moves amounted to "a massive attempt at state-sponsored voter suppression." He added that the organization will be urging the UN "to look at what is a coordinated campaign to disenfranchise persons of color."
The NAACP has teamed up with the National Urban League to sponsor the National Voter Empowerment Hotline 1-866-MyVote1 (1-866-698-6831).