NAACP highlights report claiming racial bias in N.C. voter ID efforts

Civil rights group urges early voting at N.C. conference

khui@newsobserver.comOctober 13, 2012 Updated 17 hours ago

Leading The annual Historic Thousands on Jones Street march Ben Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP, left, and Reverend Doctor William Barber II,_president of the NC NAACP, right, both also spoke to the thousands that attended on Saturday, February 11, 2012.

COREY LOWENSTEIN — clowenst@newsobserver.com

  • View the report Go to the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights’ website at www.irehr.org to view the “Abridging the Vote” report.

— A new report released Saturday charges that efforts to require North Carolina voters to show identification are part of a partisan effort by Tea Party activists to suppress minority voter turnout.

The report, released at the North Carolina NAACP State Conference, was used as a rallying cry by the civil rights group to get 1 million minority and “progressive white” voters to participate in early voting that starts Thursday. One of the report’s authors, Devin Burghart, told conference attendees that the study shows “the highly partisan and political agenda to deny African Americans and Latinos, specifically, the right to vote.”

“North Carolina, in many respects, has become ground zero in the fight over voter suppression,” said Burghart, vice president of the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights, a civil rights group based in Missouri and Washington. “There are not one but two statewide efforts to try to block the vote here in North Carolina.”

In his “State of Civil Rights in North Carolina” address, the Rev. William Barber, president of the state NAACP, called voter identification the 21st-century version of poll taxes, a Jim Crow law implemented in many states to discourage blacks and poor whites from voting.

“When you understand this history, then you understand why those of us in the civil rights community will fight any attempt, will fight anybody under any guise, under any camouflage that ever tries to steal or suppress or isolate the power of our vote,” Barber said to applause from the audience.

The two groups cited in the new report – True the Vote and the Voter Integrity Project of North Carolina – denied the allegations, saying they’re only trying to root out voter fraud.

Jay Delancy, director of the Voter Integrity Project of N.C., said it’s not burdensome to require voters to show identification, which critics say could disenfranchise students, minorities and senior citizens.

“The only votes I want to suppress are illegal votes,” Delancy said.

A hot-button issue

Voter identification has become a heated issue in North Carolina and nationally.

A bill passed by the Republican-led North Carolina General Assembly requiring voters to show identification was vetoed last year by Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue.

True the Vote, a group formed by a Texas Tea Party leader that has spawned chapters across the country, trains volunteers how to review voter rolls for people they think should be removed.

Last week, a Democratic congressman from Maryland opened a probe into True the Vote over the efforts by its chapters to remove thousands from voter rolls across the country.

On Aug. 31, the Voter Integrity Project of N.C., which broke off from True the Vote, delivered to the State Board of Elections a list of more than 27,500 people that the group says remain registered to vote after they died. State elections officials said they were already reviewing most of the names before they got the list.

True The Vote, in a written statement, criticized the report for listing individuals, their affiliations and their online comments.

“These coordinated efforts to bully Americans, who are doing nothing more than executing their rights to observe elections and ensure accurate voter rolls, are reprehensible,” said True The Vote.

Hui: 919-829-4534

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