Washington, D.C.—With all the different national news narratives trying to find their rightful place on the front pages of our local newspapers, voter suppression laws that have been passed by nearly 34 GOP lead state legislatures remain one of the bigger plot lines that will negatively affect the presidential election come November.
Last week, The Washington Post reported on 2010 U.S. Census data that shows the number of Black and Latino registered voters fell sharply, with 2 million fewer voters in 2010 than 2008. Some election experts attributed the decline in Black and Latino registered voters to the bad economy, families relocating to find work and not re-registering to vote.
Voter registration numbers among African-Americans is down from 2008 as well, prompting the NAACP and other civil rights organizations to launch registration drives two months earlier than in past presidential election years.
It’s a troubling development that will no doubt negatively impact participation in November. Last March, voters and voting rights advocates in Omaha and Nebraska protested the closing of more than 100 polling locations—-over half the locations in Omaha—-by Douglas County Election Commissioner Dave Phipps. Outraged citizens say the decisions were made without citizen input, and primarily affect communities with the highest percentage of minorities.
Leaders of the NAACP and other groups blame the decline on new state laws requiring people to produce identification to register or placing limits on who can run a voter registration drive. They also say the foreclosure and job crises have affected black Americans in large numbers.
Another likely factor, said Melanie Campbell, president and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation: The excitement over the prospect of electing the first black president has faded.
The Obama-Biden re-election campaign says registration may be up since then in anticipation of the coming election. NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Jealous said that increasing black voter registration is an urgent concern. "We're starting earlier, working harder, making more use of technology this year, because this year we are witnessing the ugliest environment we have seen in a long time," Jealous said.
It would be criminal if we didn’t have a president who was elected by all eligible U.S. citizens who have the right to vote but rather chosen by certain elite groups that had the privilege to vote. That’s no democracy.
In the coming months, the Voice Reporter will focus on educating the labor movement and all Americans on their rights and ensure that every eligible voter can vote. Our Voter Empowerment Campaign will serve to help Americans overcome the unfair barriers states have created blocking the right to vote – and ensure that our democracy stays intact.