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NAACP Calls for the Expansion of the Right to Vote to All Eligible Citizens and for Affirmative Steps to Increase the Integrity of Elections

WHEREAS, there has been a significant expansion in the number and type of voter suppression measures since the NAACP affirmed its opposition to efforts to disenfranchise millions of eligible American voters, disproportionately African American and other racial and ethnic minorities in 2011 and claims of mass voter fraud remain unproven despite numerous investigations; and

WHEREAS, the NAACP was instrumental in passing the Help America Vote Act of 2001which strengthens the integrity of our elections through increased use of safe and reliable technology approaches and full funding for the Elections Assistance Commission; and

WHEREAS, the NAACP's present policy position supports expansion of voting rights including full voting rights to the residents of the District of Columbia and automatic restoration of voting rights for people with felony convictions immediately upon release from prison; and

WHEREAS, existing policy opposes voter suppression measures including discriminatory photo ID requirements for registering and voting; laws which shorten or eliminate early voting periods, same day voter registration and Sunday voting; which place onerous restrictions on the voter registration efforts of nonĀ­ partisan organizations and groups; and which place stringent requirements on individuals who have moved; and

WHEREAS, since 2011 extremist legislators have expanded the attack on voting rights to include requiring proof of citizenship at the time of registration, severe limits on how many voters any one person may assist at the polls, and ballot measures seeking to institutionalize voter suppression measures into state constitutions and continue to invent new barriers to voting; and

WHEREAS, in 2011 Florida and Iowa reinstated felony disenfranchisement rules which prevent more than 500,000 people with felony convictions from voting; and

WHEREAS, recent research set forth in the NAACP's Defending Democracy report establishes that more than 5 million people who were eligible to vote in 2008 will be unable to vote in 2012 as a result of voter suppressive measures; recent expert testimony from Professor Kenneth Mayer in the case of Milwaukee Branch of the NAACP, et at v. Scott Walker established upwards of 300,000 registered voters will be unable to participate in Wisconsin's next election as a result of its newly adopted photo ID changes ; and according to a 2012 study conducted by the New York Times, in the months since Florida's third party registration restriction took effect in May 2011, 81,471 fewer Floridians have registered to vote than during the same period before the 2008 presidential election; and

WHEREAS, proof of citizenship requirements expanded to seven states in 2012 including Arizona, Texas, South Carolina, Kansas, Tennessee, Alabama, and Virginia and primary proof of citizenship documents are limited to an original or certified copy of a birth certificate or a United States passport and neither is available free of charge, and it is improbable that citizens who are eligible to vote will carry such important documents on their person; and

WHEREAS, restrictions on individuals' ability to provide ready assistance at the polls could have a significantly negative impact on the ability of as many as 1.2 million people residing in domiciliary care, congregate housing, residential care or assisted living facilities to cast a ballot on Election Day as these voters are commonly transported to the polls in groups and require assistance; and

WHEREAS, voter suppression measures institutionalized into state constitutions through ballot initiatives or constitutional amendments become a part of the fabric of the state's democratic process and are therefore a grave threat to democracy and several states including Ohio, Minnesota, Missouri, and Mississippi are currently trying to institutionalize voter suppression in this way; and

WHEREAS, felony disenfranchisement schemes remain in the state constitution of four states, Florida, Virginia, Kentucky and Iowa, despite first emerging as a voter suppression measure in the late 1890s for the specific purpose of eliminating political power and influence of African Americans; and

WHEREAS, according to the Sentencing Project, 60 percent of those incarcerated are racial or ethnic minorities and according to a 2012 bulletin of the United States Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, 1 in 200 United States residents is incarcerated and black men are incarcerated at a rate seven times higher than white men; black women at a rate nearly three times that of white women; and as many as 47 percent of all individuals are incarcerated for non-violent offenses.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the NAACP calls for the complete elimination of federal and state election laws, policies and procedures which automatically strip individuals of the right to vote if convicted of a felony, following the examples of Maine and Vermont where citizens convicted of felony convictions do not lose their right to vote and where voting rights remain separate and apart from the criminal justice system; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NAACP calls for the amendment of federal and state laws to provide for the automatic registration of all citizens upon reaching the voting age and that automatic voter registration be given equal weight and consideration as registration for selective service; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NAACP continues to call on all units to identify and fight against these disenfranchising proposals at the local, state, and federal level, including proof of citizenship at time of registration, severe limits on how many voters any one person may assist at the polls, and ballot measures seeking to institutionalize voter suppression measures into state constitutions, and any other voter suppression measures that may arise in the future; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NAACP calls on its units to engage in advocacy efforts to advance progressive solutions that protect and expand voting rights such as efforts to institutionalize the right to vote in the federal and state constitutions and any proposed legislation that expands the electorate; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that the NAACP will engage in a national campaign aimed at reversing voter suppression measures and expanding progressive election reforms. This campaign includes providing support to multi-faceted state voting rights campaigns, conducting national and state voter education efforts, working with national partners to expand national and grassroots capacity and shaping the public narrative through strategic communications.

Together Power Vote Hero - NAACP

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