New, restrictive voting laws approved in many Republican-controlled states have caused great concern among African-American ministers, elected officials and civil rights advocates who believe that they were implemented to suppress the votes of minorities and others in the upcoming presidential election. A study last year by New York University's Brennan Center for Justice said that the new laws "may sharply tilt the political terrain for the 2012 election" by restricting voting access for 5 million people — most of them minorities, elderly or low-income, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
Urgently working to counteract the impact of the new restrictions, which have been compared to Jim Crow laws, the Congressional Black Caucus is reaching out to a group that has always been there when it comes to civil rights: the black clergy. Together they hope to register and educate as many voters as possible to address this "danger to our democracy."
From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus and several hundred clergy leaders from the Conference of National Black Churches are scheduled to hold a summit Wednesday in Washington to discuss the new laws, their potential impact on African-American voters and how churches can educate parishioners, help them register and help get them to the polls on Election Day to prevent any significant drop-off from 2008.
"We will have attorneys there who are well-equipped to provide the guidance to the clergy members," said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., the Congressional Black Caucus chair and a United Methodist pastor. Since last year, at least 15 states, including Pennsylvania, have passed a wide array of laws that they say are aimed at reducing voter fraud. Up to 38 states, including some of those 15, are weighing legislation that would require people to show government-approved photo identification or provide proof of citizenship before registering or casting ballots.
Advocates of the new laws say they're needed to protect the integrity of the vote, to prevent illegal immigrants from casting ballots and to clamp down on voter fraud, although several studies over the years indicate that systemic voter fraud in this country is negligible.
Read more at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.