People of Northwest Public Radio
Thu March 15, 2012
NAACP Takes Voter I.D. Laws To U.N. Rights Council
Like they've done in the past, the NAACP has argued before a United Nations panel that laws passed in some states that require voters to show identification suppress the votes of minorities.
Fox News reports the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People made its case in Geneva yesterday:
"'This really is a tactic that undercuts the growth of your democracy,' said Hillary Shelton, the NAACP's senior vice president for advocacy, about voter photo ID requirements.
"In a Fox News interview prior to his trip, Shelton said the message from the NAACP delegation to the Human Rights Council is that the photo ID law 'undercuts the integrity of our government, if you allow it to happen. It's trickery, it's a sleight-of-hand. We're seeing it happen here and we don't want it to happen to you, and we are utilizing the U.N. as a tool to make sure that we are able to share that with those countries all over the world.'
"The United Nations has no legal jurisdiction over the American electoral system, which Shelton acknowledges. Asked whether he thinks that the U.N. should be involved in domestic American laws, he answered, 'No, not specifically. The U.N. should certainly be involved in sharing a best practice for the world. We're the greatest country on the face of the earth, but we can be better still,' he said."
The Boston Herald reports that the NAACP thinks appearing before the U.N. could exert public pressure. It's something the group did in the '40s and '50s, "when the group looked to the United Nations and the international community for support in its domestic battle for civil rights for blacks and against lynching."
In an interview with the Herald, NAACP president Benjamin Todd Jealous said voter I.D. laws are "pushing more voters out of the ballot box than any point since Jim Crow."
The Guardian provides a bit of background on those laws:
"There are already 19 new laws on the books in 14 different states, which between them account for 63% of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the US presidential race in November. Some laws involve a requirement to show photo identification in polling stations – disproportionately hitting black and elderly people, who often do not have such ID.
"Other laws have cut back on early voting schemes, heavily used by ethnic minority and older people, and still others disfranchise former convicted prisoners, even in some cases years after their sentences were completed."
The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that Kemba Smith Pradia testified against a Virginia law that prohibits her from voting because she was incarcerated for a "a drug-related offense in 1992." Pradia had no other previous offenses and she was granted clemency by President Bill Clinton.
"I struggle with the fact that as of today I cannot vote in Virginia because this is where my offense occurred. But in other states I wouldn't have to deal with this issue," she testified, according to the Times-Dispatch. "It is as if other states understand the need for forgiveness and the right of citizens to not be isolated from the rest of the population because they have been denied this human right."