The conservative attack on voting

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The Philadelphia Tribune reported in its Dec. 13 edition that a Black conservative group is criticizing the NAACP’s voting rights awareness campaign as “demeaning to African-Americans,” and accuses the civil rights organization of “crying wolf.”

The group, Project 21, and other conservatives are wrong to support bills to change laws that will require voter photo identification at polling places in Pennsylvania and other states across the country.

The NAACP was right to march two weeks ago to urge all Americans to resist voter restriction measures in their states and to educate themselves about their voting rights.

The Black conservative group’s cynical attempt to appeal to ethnic pride as a reason not to oppose voter identification laws is not a credible argument. The NAACP and other opponents of the voter identifications are not saying African-Americans do not have, or are incapable of getting, photo ID, but the fact remains that voter identification laws would pose an unnecessary barrier to voting.

Yes, African-Americans and other minorities are capable of getting photo identification like any other group—but the fact remains that studies show that minorities, the elderly and very young voters would have more difficulty obtaining the photo identification necessary to vote.

A 2006 survey by the American Research Corp. showed that 25 percent of African-Americans, 18 percent of senior citizens and 18 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds don’t have photo IDs.

On Dec. 12, an amendment was added to soften the Pennsylvania House-passed voter ID bill by the Senate State Government Committee. The amendment would allow voters to use IDs issued by colleges and nursing homes in addition to official state IDs, such as drivers’ licenses.

The amendment is marginal and does not go far enough.

The changes would not help senior citizens who don’t live in nursing homes and lack proper identification because they no longer drive.

The amendment still does not address the fact that higher percentages of minorities do not possess a photo ID when compared with the population as a whole.

State Sen. Anthony Williams, D-Philadelphia, correctly points out that there is no crisis of fraudulent voting for the bill to address. Williams suggested that if a problem existed, the Attorney General’s Office should investigate it before legislation is passed.

“To say that it is a crisis and that the house is on fire, that should require someone to show that the house is on fire,” Williams told Associated Press. “I’m very concerned about putting restrictions on one’s ability to vote.

Republicans are pushing unnecessary voter identifications laws that will disenfranchise voters.

(Reprinted from the Philadelphia Tribune.)

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