NAACP Rallies Against Philly ID Law

This morning, as Pennsylvania Supreme Court justices heard arguments over whether a new law requiring each voter in the state to show valid photo identification poses an unnecessary threat to the right to vote, the NAACP hosted a rally across from the courthouse. The civil rights organization stressed what it said was the partisan motivation of the legislation, put the threats to poll access in the context of the civil rights movement and pledged to register as many as possible to vote, regardless of the case's outcome.

Details on the case, from the Associated Press:

The high court appeal follows a lower court's refusal to halt the law from taking effect Nov. 6, when voters will choose between Democratic President Barack Obama, Republican nominee Mitt Romney and as many as two third-party candidates. The law, championed by Republicans over the objections of Democrats, is now part of the heated election-year political rhetoric in the presidential swing state.

In opening statements by a lawyer for the plaintiffs, justices asked whether it would be acceptable for the new photo identification requirement to be phased in over a longer period of time , say, a period covering two federal elections.

The lawyer, David Gersch, replied that it would, as long as the law guarantees the right to vote to each registered voter, even if one who cannot get a photo ID that's valid under the law. Other states, such as Georgia and Michigan, have made such guarantees in their laws, and Pennsylvania's Legislature could loosen the state's limits on who can vote by absentee ballot, Gersch said.


In his remarks at the rally, Kevin. R. Johnson, the pastor at Bright Hope Baptist Church, asked, "The question is really why did you have to change the law? Did you change the law because you knew that people lack photo ID in poor black and brown communities?"

NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous called the law "not a Republican thing or a Democratic thing" but "an extremist thing," adding, "Turning the tide, we have won in Texas and we have even won in the Republican states of Michigan and Virginia, but we find ourselves here challenging the law again.” Other speakers linked what they said was a threat to democracy to the work of African-American civil rights heroes Medgar Evers, Harry T. Moore and the four little girls of the 1963 Birmingham church bombing.

Separate from the issue being decided inside the courthouse, several speakers emphasized mobilization of voters. John Jordan, the NAACP's state coordinator for civic engagement, said, "Whatever they decide, we need you to go out to every single neighbor, family member, friend, community leader, and register folks to vote. And then we need to see turnout like we have never seen before."