U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was right to use an event celebrating the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday Jan. 16 to emphasize the Obama administration’s dedication to protecting the American people from discriminatory voting practices.

VOTER ID PROTEST—Attorney Gen. Eric Holder addresses the crowd during a rally at the Statehouse Jan. 16, in Columbia, S.C. Hundreds of people rallied outside the South Carolina capitol to honor the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and protest the state’s voter identification law. (AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain)

“Despite our nation’s record of progress and its long tradition of extending voting rights, today a growing number of citizens are worried about the same disparities, divisions and problems that Dr. King fought throughout his life to address and overcome,” Holder said at an MLK Day event in Columbia, South Carolina.

Holder’s remarks came just weeks after the Justice Department blocked South Carolina’s new ID law from taking effect, citing an unfair burden on minority voters.

Under the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act, South Carolina is one of 16 largely Southern states that must seek approval from the Justice Department or the federal courts for changes made to state voting laws.

The South Carolina law required each voter to show a state-issued photo identification card to cast a ballot in an election.

Voter ID laws have been introduced in at least 34 states, including Pennsylvania.

Republican supporters claim the laws would prevent voter fraud.

But there is no evidence that voter fraud is an urgent major problem in America.

It is not a coincidence that Republican lawmakers have recently enacted laws designed to limit Americans’ access to the polls, laws that will disproportionately discourage those—African Americans, Hispanics, students and the poor—who voted in large numbers in 2008 to elect Barack Obama.

The NAACP and other civil rights organizations have been outspoken against the onslaught of an unprecedented number of restrictive voting measures introduced in recent years.

There must an aggressive national campaign to register and mobilize voters and get them to obtain the required ID while vigorously opposing the new restrictive measures.

(Reprinted from the Philadelphia Tribune.)

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