Churches Rally to Protect Voters from Voter ID Laws
African-American clergy and their congregations are fighting back against voter suppression, calling attention to the tsunami of Voter ID laws that have swept the nation over the last two years, a threat they view as racially motivated.
“Now all of a sudden,” said Rev. William J. Barber II, “when you have a mass number of black people going to the polls, and a mass number of Latinos going go the polls, and a president who happens to be African-American, all of a sudden, those legislators want voter ID.”
The coalition of churches is pledging to register up to a million of the six million African-Americans who, the NAACP estimates, aren't currently registered to vote, despite meeting eligibility requirements. The NAACP has joined the coalition in their registration effort
“We must overwhelm the rising tide of voting suppression with the high tide of registration and mobilization and motivation and protection," NAACP President Benjamin Jealous said.
Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Action Network (NAN), the Rev. Julius Scruggs of the National Baptist Convention, and the Rev. Jamal-Harrison Bryant of the Empowerment Temple have also joined the initiative, which boasts a legion of 34 churches.
Their goal is to increase awareness among their congregations of the various Voter ID laws and to motivate those who have not voted in the past to go to the polls this November.
“We are targeting congregations across the country,” said NAN and Conference of National Black Churches chairman, the Rev. W. Franklyn Richardson, “to let them know where the laws have been changed so they are not surprised."
The NAACP hosted a rally recently near a Pennsylvania courthouse, where judges were hearing an appeal contesting the validity of the state’s recently passed Voter ID law. Opponents of the measure argued that such is a law unnecessary, since the state has conceded that virtually no voter fraud exists. The Pennsylvania courts seem to be moving towards reversing the law, and it could have significant impacts on the November election, Think Progress reports.
"The question is really why did you have to change the law?” Kevin R. Johnson, pastor of the Bright Hope Baptist Church said. "Did you change the law because you knew that people lack photo ID in poor black and brown communities?"
Kevin Jersey is a reporter for Campus Progress. Follow him on Twitter @wordsnotbullets.