VOTER SUPPRESSION: NAACP Pres./CEO Ben Jealous Leading The Charge To Overcome GOP Efforts To Suppress The Vote (VIDEO)

Across the country, Republican governors and state legislatures have been laying the groundwork for massive voter suppression unlike anything we’ve seen since the era of Jim Crow. Here at “Washington Watch,” we’re committed to exposing these anti-democratic measures.

NAACP president and CEO Ben Jealous is leading the charge to overcome efforts to block your vote.

MR. MARTIN: Across the country, Republican governors and state legislatures have been laying the groundwork for massive voter suppression unlike anything we’ve seen since the era of Jim Crow.  Here at “Washington Watch,” we’re committed to exposing these anti-democratic measures.  This week, the Attorney General of the United States, Eric Holder, made a forceful speech condemning these voter suppression measures by invoking the words of civil rights icon Cong. John Lewis.


ATTY. GEN. ERIC HOLDER:  As Cong. John Lewis described it in a speech on the House floor this summer, the voting rights that he worked throughout his life, and nearly gave his life to ensure, are – and, again, I quote – “under attack by a deliberate and systematic attempt to prevent millions of elderly voters, young voters, students and minority and low-income voters from exercising their constitutional right to engage in the democratic progress [sic – “process”]” – unquote.


MR. MARTIN:  Holder promised to use the full power of the Justice Department to preserve and protect our right to vote.  One man outside of government leading the charge to overcome these efforts to block your vote is NAACP president and CEO Ben Jealous.

So, Ben, welcome back to “Washington Watch.”

MR. BEN JEALOUS:  Thank you, Roland.  It’s good to be here.

MR. MARTIN:  As I said, you know, we’ve made a point of really focusing on this, and I’ve –

MR. JEALOUS:  And thank you –

MR. MARTIN:  — I – I –

MR. JEALOUS:  — for doing that.

MR. MARTIN:  — I’ve made the issue that this is not about a demo- — this is not about Democrats or Republicans.  The right to vote affects everybody.  But when you look at these measures, have you found one example where Republicans are looking to broaden access to the ballot, as opposed to restrict?

MR. JEALOUS:  Well, you know, ten years ago, that’s what Charlie Crist and Jeb Bush down in Florida were trying to do – right – when you think about it.  We ha- — we had the whole embarrassment around 2000.  Jeb Bush put in place a commission.  Charlie Crist, at the e- — you know, inherited that commission, and the impact was they got rid of their ban on formerly incarcerated people voting.

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MR. JEALOUS:  Now, Gov. Scott has put it back in place, pushed a half million people off the rolls.  And the thing is – is that those laws really blossomed right after the Civil War, and if you look in the actual legislative history of ex-felon voting bans, it says quite plainly, state after state, whether it’s New York in the 1870s, or it’s Virginia in 1906, “the purpose of this law is to suppress the Black vote.”  So, when you pull it off the shelf, and you put it back on the field, it – you know, ten years after it’s been banned in your state – you actually put the ban back in place – no one can really question your motive.  Your motive is clear.  Your motive is to use that law for the purpose that it’s always had, which is to suppress the Black vote, suppress the brown vote.

MR. MARTIN:  Now, you’ve had some Republicans on the state level get very upset with the recent report the NAACP released, saying, “Look.  This is not about race.  It’s not about bigotry.  We’re simply trying to protect the sanctity of the vote and do away with voter fraud.”

MR. JEALOUS:  You know, look, man.  Roland, if I said there was a fly on your head, and I’m just trying to hit that fly, but I keep smacking you on the – [chuckles] – head, at some point you’re going to say, “Stop smacking me on the head” – right?  Like, they want to argue about what their intent is, what’s in the heart.  Honestly, what we care about is what the effect of the law is.  And if you’re passing law after law after law that disproportionately disenfranchises people of color, then we[’ve] got a problem.  And the reality is – is that we’ve seen, in over 30 states, attacks on Sunday voting, early voting, same-day registration; the imposition of new bans on formerly incarcerated people voting in states like Florida; the – putting in place voter I.D., now even registration I.G. — -D.  In Georgia and Arizona, they will not process your voter registration form unless you attach a Xerox of your I.D.  Well, who can run a voter registration drive while pushing a Xerox machine down the street?  The answer is no one – and that’s the entire point.  In fact, in the state of Arizona, as of the – the mi- — middle of the past summer, they had already thrown essentially 40,000 voter registration forms in the trash because people didn’t attach their I.D. to their voter registration form.

The – the – the kind of catch is they have no requirement to tell those folks that they threw their voter registration form in the – in the trash.  Those people won’t find out –

MR. MARTIN:  So, those folks actually thought that –

MR. JEALOUS:  — they had registered to vote –

MR. MARTIN:  — “I’m registered.”

MR. JEALOUS:  — and they will show up –

MR. MARTIN:  And I’m waiting –

MR. JEALOUS:  — to vote –

MR. MARTIN:  — on my card –

MR. JEALOUS:  — and they’ll show up to vote.  “I registered.”

And they’ll say, “No.  You’re not on the rolls.”

And what will come to pass is you – you must not have had your I.D. attached to it.

MR. MARTIN:  I had some folks say – and then I’ve talked to a number of conservatives about this, and they say, “Look.  People should know whe-” – “where their polling location is” – things along those lines.

And I say, “Wait a minute.”  I know, for example, when I lived in Texas, I lived on a street that had “North” or “South.”  I voted at the same school for several, different elections, and then they actually changed the polling place.  I went to the old polling location, and if the Ohio law was in place in Texas, the poll workers there would not have the authority – they could not tell me – they would – I’m sorry.  It’d be voluntary for them to tell me –

MR. JEALOUS:  Where to go.

MR. MARTIN:  — my correct polling location, as opposed to it being mandatory.

I mean I’m trying to – how can someone defend making it voluntary to tell a voter, “I’m sorry.  Here’s your correct polling location”?

MR. JEALOUS:  Well, look.  We’re the only Western democracy that repeatedly makes it difficult for folks to vote.  In every other Western democracy, there’s a national system.  There are national –

MR. MARTIN:  Right, right.

MR. JEALOUS:  — rules, all of it designed to make it easier for you to vote.  Essentially, in the UK, they use their census process to update the voter rolls.  It’s b- — it’s basically tied to the equivalent of your Social Security number.

In this country, what we should be doing is saying, “Look.  Your Social Security will find you wherever you go.  You get this number when you’re born.  Well, when you turn 18, it’ll trigger.  You’ll be signed up to vote.  Wherever you go to show up” – “to vote, it will follow you, just like Social Security follows you.”  Instead, we have 10,000 different systems across the country for getting people – [chuckles] – enrolled –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MR. JEALOUS:  — you know, crazy, different machines; different processes.  And now they want all these – these crazy rules to make it harder and harder for people to vote, and you[’ve] got to ask yourself why.  And when you look at the 2010 Census, it becomes pretty clear.  The Black vote’s up about – well, at least more than 10 percent, as far as the size, the – the –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MR. JEALOUS:  — number of Black folks over 18.  The Latino vote – up 43 percent.  The White vote’s up 1.2 percent.  And you see folks, you know, in a party that ten years ago was really trying to embrace people of color – you remember George Bush was against racial profiling when he ran the first –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MR. JEALOUS:  — time?  He was for a real sane response to dealing with the – the – the issue of the undocumented in this country.  Th- — that apparently wasn’t so popular.  Now they’ve flipped to the other side, and they said, “Well, we’re just going to hold back the future with a toothpick.  We’re going to try to,” you know, “suppress the vote amongst people of color, suppress the bo-” – “vote amongst young people.”

MR. MARTIN:  The Republican National Lawyers’ Association – they came out last week with a map to prove why –

MR. JEALOUS:  [Chuckles.]  Nothing.

MR. MARTIN:  — they need to combat voter fraud –

MR. JEALOUS:  Nothing.

MR. MARTIN:  — but they only found 318 cases over a ten-year period –

MR. JEALOUS:  No, no.  1997 – a 14-year period.

MR. MARTIN:  — sorry.  Sorry.  So – and –

MR. JEALOUS:  [Chuckles.]

MR. MARTIN:  — out of 340 million votes cast.  318 cases out of 340 million votes cast.

MR. JEALOUS:  [Chuckles.]  Right – which is what we keep telling them.  We say, “Look.  It’s a single-issue [sic]” – “a single-digit or a double-digit problem in any year.”  You take 318, you divide it by 14 years – since 1997, [and] you end up with less than 30 cases a year.  You know, George Bush – same thing.  He spent millions of dollars going through millions of voters over a five-year period and found 86 cases.  [The] Obama Administration last year found nine cases.  The new Republican governor in – in New Mexico was looking for a slightly different issue.  This was – she was trying to find undocumented people who had registered to vote, proving that they needed I.D. Two cases.  Okay?  Two cases.

MR. MARTIN:  Spent millions of dollars –

MR. JEALOUS:  Yeah, yeah and –

MR. MARTIN:  — and found two cases.

MR. JEALOUS:  — people [were?] extremely repentant.

Well, you know what?  [Chuckles.]  We have prosecutors who can handle 30 cases a year.

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MR. JEALOUS:  I mean come on!

MR. MARTIN:  Obviously, the next piece is, “What’s next?”  So, what is the NAACP doing?  [We] don’t have much time left.


MR. MARTIN:  What is the NAACP doing to get people to understand, “The-” – “Many of these laws are in place.  Here’s what needs to be done to combat these laws”?

MR. JEALOUS:  Look.  It all comes down to a huge anti-voter, suppression push.  What that means is that we will be fighting state by state as they try to stick these laws in place during the rump session, when the states reconvene.

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MR. JEALOUS:  We’re pushing Holder right now not to grant preclearance to –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MR. JEALOUS:  — South Carolina, Mississippi, and we’re getting ready for the biggest voter registration drive we’ve had in many, many years – ’cause we have to recapture folks who’ve been purged.

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MR. JEALOUS:  We’re also getting ready to basically invent a voter r- — a national voter I.D. drive, and that’s probably the – the saddest thing in the world, because these put in place the first financial barriers to voting since we got rid of the poll tax.

MR. MARTIN:  Well, we certainly appreciate all of those efforts, a- — and, again, if you’re a Republican, if you’re a Democrat, it does not matter.

MR. JEALOUS:  No, ’cause you –

MR. MARTIN:  The iss- —

MR. JEALOUS:  — want people to vote!

MR. MARTIN:  Right.  Right.

MR. JEALOUS:  I mean I was talking to Buddy Roemer, who’s running for president on the Republican ticket.  He’s outraged.  He’s like, “Look,” you know, “we should make it easier for people to vote – not harder.”

MR. MARTIN:  And what’s interesting is I cannot recall in a single debate where voter suppression has come up in the Republican debates.

MR. JEALOUS:  Yeah.  No, they want to kind of stay away from that – [crosstalk].

MR. MARTIN:  All right, Ben.  We appreciate it.  Thanks a lot.

MR. JEALOUS:  All right.  Thank you.

MR. MARTIN:  All right.

MR. JEALOUS:  Appreciate you.

MR. MARTIN:  Folks, we’ll continue to support the NAACP’s efforts and also keep you informed when it comes to what you can do to be prepared to vote.  The point, again:  this is not a Democrat or Republican thing; it’s an American thing.