NAACP leaders will challenge new voting laws in the United States at the United Nations' Human Rights Council in Switzerland on Wednesday.
"It was in 1947 that W.E.B. Dubois delivered his speech and appealed to the world at the U.N.," NAACP president Benjamin Todd Jealous told McClatchy Newspapers. "Now, like then, the principal concern is voting rights. The past year more states in this country have passed more laws pushing more voters out of the ballot box than any point since Jim Crow."
The NAACP has vocally opposed restrictions on voting and hopes to use its appearance at the U.N. to publicize what it claims are efforts to suppressing the votes of minorities.
"The power of the U.N. on state governments historically is to shame them and to put pressure on the U.S. government to bring them into line with global standards for democracy, best practices for democracy, that's where we are," Jealous explained.. "There are plenty of examples — segregation of the U.S. to apartheid in South Africa to the death penalty here in the U.S. — of global outrage having an impact."
Republicans across the country have pushed for stricter voting regulations, such as voter ID laws, to protect against alleged voter fraud. More than 30 states have changed voter laws since 2008, including requiring voter identification cards, eliminating same-day registration on voting day, prohibiting ex-felons from ballot access, restricting early voting and requiring proof of citizenship.
According to a report by the Brennan Center for Justice, changes to voting laws could suppress up to five million votes during the 2012 elections, particularly among young, minority and low-income voters, as well as those with disabilities — all of whom tend to vote for Democrats.
Proponents of the new voting laws claim they are needed to prevent abuses that compromise the integrity of elections. But critics are quick to point out the lack of voter fraud.
"There have been allegations of impersonation at the polls, but they are notable for their rarity," law professor Justin Levitt recently noted in the Election Law Journal.
"In the most prominent forum to date for collecting such allegations, proponents of these rules cited nine votes since 2000 that were caused either by fraud that in-person identification rules could possibly stop or by innocent mistake. During the same period, 400 million votes were cast in general elections alone. Even assuming that each of the nine votes were fraudulent, that amounts to a relevant fraud rate of 0.000002 percent. Americans are struck and killed by lightning more often."
Photo credit: Justin Valas