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WHEREAS, voting rights for all Americans have, since the founding of our Association in 1909, been a primary goal; and
WHEREAS, the NAACP and its members shall never forget the men, women, and children who suffered and died so that all Americans can register and cast a free and unfettered vote and be sure that vote is counted; and
WHEREAS, since 1909 the NAACP has passed resolutions calling for the enactment of federal legislation to nationalize many of the tools identified by state and local units throughout our nation as improving voter registration and turn-out and successful voter participation; and
WHEREAS, in the past several decades, these tools have included early voting, Sunday voting, same day registration, and automatic voter registration, to name a few; and
WHEREAS, the NAACP has also been on the leading edge of opposing schemes to suppress voting rights, including most recently photo identification requirements, proof of citizenship, and onerous requirements for non-partisan voter registration; and
WHEREAS, despite extensive voter registration by groups including the NAACP only about 64% of the U.S. voting-age population was registered in 2016; and
WHEREAS, overall voter turnout was 61.4% of all registered voters in 2016, a share similar to 2012 but below the 63.6% who say they voted in 2008; and
WHEREAS, in the 2016 Presidential election, the African American voter turnout rate declined for the first time in 20 years in a presidential election, falling to under 60% after reaching a record-high of over 66% in 2012; and
WHEREAS, among highly developed, democratic states turn out in the U.S. is fairly low, even in Presidential election years. Looking at the most recent nationwide elections in 32 democracies, the U.S. placed 26th out of 32; and
WHEREAS, the democracy with the highest voter turnout was Belgium, with over 87% of eligible voters casting a ballot. One factor behind Belgium's high turnout rates is that it is one of the 24 nations around the world with compulsory voting; and
WHEREAS, while compulsory-voting laws aren't always strictly enforced, their presence or absence can have dramatic impacts on turnout. In Chile, for example, turnout plunged after the country moved from compulsory to voluntary voting in 2012 and began automatically enrolling eligible citizens. Even though essentially all voting-age citizens were registered for Chile's 2013 elections, turnout in the presidential race plunged to 42%, versus 87% in 2010 when the compulsory-voting law was still in place; and
WHEREAS, voting is a civic duty comparable to other duties citizens in which citizens are required to perform, including paying taxes or jury duty; and
WHEREAS, under compulsory voting, candidates can concentrate their campaigning energies on issues rather than encouraging particular voters to cast a ballot; and
WHEREAS, the voter isn't actually compelled to vote for anyone because voting is by secret ballot.
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the NAACP reaffirms existing policies and the principles of an inclusive Democracy through:
- Prioritizing a pro-voter platform within our fight forward to combat racial injustices and disparities, as well as an opportunity to continue to build an independent political movement that aligns with our shared values;
- Demanding the reauthorization of Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act;
- Advocating to expand and protect voting rights at the federal and state level, including the modernization of voting through Automatic Registration, Online Registration, and Same Day Registration; making it easier for working people to vote by expanding Early Voting, Permanent Mail Ballot, and Vote By Mail; restoring the Rights of Returning Citizens; and maintaining and expanding the availability of Straight Ticket Voting and a host other voter protections that happen prior to elections.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NAACP will continue to fight to protect the voting rights of people of color and all people when they come under attack, especially against attempts to suppress votes in the lead-up to elections, including through support for community-focused voter education and voter protection efforts; changing structural rules to ensure that every vote and every voice counts equally; and, reshaping the political debate to demand full democracy at every level of government.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NAACP will support efforts to dramatically increase the number of eligible Americans who register and vote, including but not limited to the following forward facing solutions including:
- Compulsory voting;
- Elimination of voter registration barriers through universal automatic voter registration, Election Day as a Holiday; and
- Removal of restrictive poll places within jurisdictions.
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that the NAACP will never forget and shall always honor those who struggled, and were sometimes met with violence or death, in the name of voting rights for all Americans.