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NAACP: Voting laws assault minority voters

NEW YORK, Dec. 6 (UPI) -- New state voting laws constitute a systematic and illegal assault on U.S. minority voting rights ahead of the presidential election, the NAACP contends.

The alleged "block the vote" tactics are a conscious, insidious attempt by state legislatures to undermine black, Hispanic and other minority voting power after the historic level of political participation by voters of color in the 2008 election and the rapid growth of communities of color as recorded in the 2010 census, the civil rights group says in a 67-page report released Monday.

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NAACP President and Chief Executive Officer Benjamin Jealous told reporters in a conference call he hand-delivered the report to U.S. Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez, who oversees the Justice Department's civil rights division, and urged the department to review the laws for violations of the Voting Rights Act, which outlaws discriminatory voting practices.

He said the rights group would send the report to other federal agencies, secretaries of state and attorneys general of the 50 U.S. states, congressional committees and a U.N. General Assembly committee.

The NAACP holds special status with the world body and Jealous said it planned to make a presentation about the alleged voter-suppression tactics to the 18-member Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in Geneva, Switzerland, in March.

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The report, "Defending Democracy," says 14 states have passed 25 measures designed to restrict or limit the ballot access of black and Hispanic voters, threatening to disfranchise millions of minority voters.

Of the 14 states that passed restrictive voting measures in 2011, four -- Florida, Georgia, Texas and North Carolina -- experienced the largest growth in black population in the past decade. Three -- South Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee -- had the highest growth rates in their Latino communities, the report said, citing Census Bureau statistics.

Some of the restrictive measures include tightening voting requirements for people with felony convictions, reducing early or absentee voting opportunities and imposing Election Day photo ID requirements.

Requiring or requesting voters to provide some form of voter identification to register or to vote is not new, the report observes. But the new laws "prohibit many common forms of previously acceptable identification like student IDs, Social Security cards, utility bills and bank statements," it says.

Many of the laws were modeled on legislation drafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative advocacy group "whose founder explained, 'Our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down," the report says.

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Advocates of the new laws, which have been enacted in 34 states, argue the greater restrictions prevent voter fraud. The report says its research finds that argument a smokescreen because "In fact, there are far more reported UFO sightings than reports of impersonation at the polls."

The NAACP plans a protest march and rally in New York Saturday that will start at the offices of conservative billionaire industrialist brothers Charles and David Koch -- who are support the voter ID laws and are reported to fund the ALEC -- and finish at the U.N. headquarters.

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