NAACP Urges U.N. Human Rights Council to ‘Review’ U.S. ‘Voter Suppression’ Laws

By Patrick Goodenough | March 15, 2012 | 4:26am EDT

The NAACP delegation in Geneva. (Photo: NAACP/Flickr)

( – Accusing U.S. states of passing laws that will “disproportionately block members of minority groups from voting,” National Association for the Advancement of Colored People President Benjamin Todd Jealous appealed to the U.N. Human Rights Council Wednesday to take up the issue.

In a brief presentation to the Geneva-based council, Jealous charged that 25 laws passed in 14 states last year “together make it harder for more than five million citizens to vote.”

“These voter-suppression laws include so-called strict voter ID laws, cutting of Sunday voting, early voting and same-day voter registration, and the re-imposing of notoriously racist bans on formerly-incarcerated people voting,” he said.

“Each of these types of laws – often framed as vote security measures – have one thing in common: they will disproportionately block members of minority groups from voting.”

Among his listeners were representatives of several countries whose citizens have no right to vote freely for their governments, including one-party states Cuba and China; and Saudi Arabia, where women have been barred from voting in even those limited elections that are held. (From 2015, women will be allowed to vote in municipal elections. But even then neither they, nor Saudi men, will be able to elect their rulers.)

Another nine of the council’s 47 members are designated “not free” and 14 others “partly free” in annual rankings by Freedom House, the Washington-based democracy watchdog.

Addressing this audience, Jealous listed U.S. laws which proponents say are designed to prevent voter fraud, but the NAACP charges are part of an orchestrated attempt to disenfranchise minority groups.

The NAACP strongly urged the HRC’s newly-appointed “independent expert on minority issues,” Rita Izsak of Hungary, “to closely review the current situation of voting rights in the U.S.”

“We also urge her to review barriers to participation by racial and ethnic minorities in nations throughout the globe, with particular attention to the right to vote for formerly-incarcerated people,” Jealous concluded.

The Obama administration is attempting to block voter ID measures in several states. (Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett on Wednesday became the latest to sign a voter ID measure into law.)

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People president Benjamin Jealous. (AP Photo)

The U.S. delegate at the HRC session, John Mariz, spoke a few minutes before Jealous, but did not mention voting laws during his brief comments.

He did say that “the United States is deeply committed to advancing the human rights of persons belonging to minorities.”

“The United States believes it is essential to engage with a broad range of civil society organizations that represent and advocate for the human rights of persons belonging to minorities,” Mariz added.

According to an earlier NAACP statement, Jealous and board of directors chairman Roslyn Brock led a delegation to Geneva “to bring global attention to attempts by dozens of states to limit voter participation.”

“The United States has always been a beacon of democracy for other nations,” said Brock. “When we do not uphold the highest standard, it can have major implications for democracy advocates across the globe.”

A Rasmussen poll last December found that 70 percent of likely voters in the U.S. believe that voters should be required to show photo ID, such as a driver’s license, before casting ballots. Only 22 percent of respondents opposed such a requirement.

Although support for voter ID was significantly higher among Republicans (92 percent), even among Democrats a majority (54 percent) favored the requirement, the poll found.

As for claims by the NAACP and others that the laws discriminate against minorities and low-income voters, only 22 percent of respondents in the survey agreed with that assessment, while 69 percent of respondents said the laws were not discriminatory.

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