NAACP eyes '16, voter ID

Published by Tim McNulty on .

Benjamin Jealous

The state NAACP had its convention in Washington, Pa., Friday with headline speaker Benjamin Todd Jealous (above), the group's national president. Activists were of course happy over Barack Obama's reelection but sounded warning bells over the future, writes Janice Crompton:

Mr. Jealous, who was the keynote speaker at the 78th annual NAACP Pennsylvania State Convention Freedom Fund banquet, held Friday evening at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in North Strabane, said the black vote will "be in play in 2016."

"According to our polls, as soon as Obama is off the ticket, enthusiasm drops 20 percent. Voter engagement, therefore, and voter turnout drop 20 percent," Mr. Jealous said. "Why? Because our people know the Democratic Party has taken them for granted for too long, and the Democratic Party can't afford to get cocky right now."

And on voter ID:

"It was very important because we always felt the law was passed to disenfranchise the largest voter groups from 2008, which include women, seniors and students," said [director of civic engagement John W. Jordan], who traveled to the conference from his home in Corydon, near Philadelphia. "To have everyone vote freely and without restriction was huge."

Now, the push is on from the NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union and other civic groups to permanently defeat the new law -- which would require voters to show photo ID at the polls beginning next year.

"We view it as a poll tax," said Jerome Mondesire, the president of the state NAACP conference, who said the organization is gearing up to reverse the law. If the group loses, it will appeal as far as it can -- perhaps even to the U.S. Supreme Court, he said.

"We're not going to go to sleep on the voter ID issue," said Mr. Mondesire, a newspaper publisher from Philadelphia. "It's too critical."

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