By Corey Walker
Tens of thousands of blacks could be turned away from the polls this fall because of legislation that would require voters to have government-issued photo identification, National Urban League President Marc Morial said during the NABJ Convention in New Orleans.
Morial is concerned such measures, if passed, will disproportionately create challenges for minority and low-income voters and lead to lower turnout among them.
“This is the most systematic assault on voting rights in a very long time,” Morial said during a Thursday night conference panel titled, “Combating Voter Suppression in the Field, the Courts and Congress.”
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, one out of every four African-American does not have government-issued photo identification.
He called such legislation unconstitutional and said it appears that lawmakers pushing the measures are deliberately trying to manipulate the November presidential election by controlling who can and cannot vote.
“This is about the fundamentals of democracy,” Morial said, adding that the National Urban League is helping lead efforts to raise awareness about the measures and block them from becoming laws.
Other panelists included representatives from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation.
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law said in a news release given to reporters before the panel that the spate of legislation is reminiscent of Jim Crow, with voters having to pay for documents to prove their eligibility. Such measures would also make it harder for people with felony convictions to regain their right to vote, the group said.
Committee representatives said it’s crucial to educate voters about the possible law changes so they can be prepared at the polls.
“Millions of voters could be affected yet millions are unaware of the changes that could take away their right to vote,” Marcia Johnson-Blanco, Lawyers’ Committee Voting Rights Under Law project co-director, said in the news release.