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NAACP and Civil Rights, Liberties Groups Say Texas' New Voter Identification Laws Will Help 'Reject' Latino, Black Voters

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First Posted: Jul 04, 2014 04:11 PM EDT
Voter Fraud
WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 8: U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) listens to testimony during a meeting with House Democratic Judiciary Committee members December 8, 2004 in Washington, DC. The Democratic Judiciary Committee members are hearing testimony on allegations of voter fraud in Ohio. (Photo : Getty Images/Mark Wilson)

Edna Giggs, a member of her local NAACP chapter, has been leading a charge against new voter-identification laws in Texas, which some civil rights and liberties groups consider to be among the most restrictive in the nation.

During the 2012 presidential election, Griggs was told she couldn't bring water or chairs to several African-American senior citizens who had been standing in line under the sun at the Acres Homes Multi-Service Center in Houston waiting to cast their votes, CNN reported.

"A poll watcher approached me and said, 'What are you doing?' He told me I couldn't do that. They thought we were trying to sway their votes by giving them water," she said. "It was really sad to me because it was like a reflection of the stories I head from my grandmother and mother when they had to pay to vote. It was a reflection of everything our people have gone through."

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Gary Bledsoe, the president of the Texas NAACP, said that the civil rights groups in the state fear that election officials and poll watchers will abuse their power with the new laws by acting discriminately toward minority voters.

"We've had a serious problem with elected officials discriminating against Latino and African-American voters," Bledsoe said. "It's obvious that many officials cannot be expected to treat these voters fairly. When you give them more power to reject black and Latino voters at the polls, that power will be exercised and the discrimination escalated."

The civil rights groups and voting rights advocates also argue that the laws are new ways to disenfranchise minority voters and suppress turnout during high-stakes elections, CNN reported.

According to a new report by the Brennan Center for Justice, a New York University School of Law think tank, some voters in roughly half the nation will have trouble casting their vote during the upcoming midterm elections this fall because of the laws.

The report also found that most of the areas that approved the new voting identification laws occurred in Republican-dominated legislatures as well as states that experienced a large minority turnout during the 2008 and 2012 general elections.

However, Texas voting officials, including Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, insist the new photo voter identification law is meant to crack down on voter fraud.

"The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that voter ID laws do not suppress legal votes, but do help prevent illegal votes," Abbott said last year.

The Voter Integrity Project and True the Vote, conservative grassroots organizations in North Carolina and Texas, respectively, advocate for the new voter identification laws and also support citizen enforcement, or screening voter rolls and searching for fraud at homes.

The Republican-led legislature in North Carolina has scrapped same-day registration, reduced the early voting period and enforced a photo ID requirement. Ohio's legislature, dominated by GOP members, removed a week of early voting and registration during the same trip to the polls, known as "Golden Week," according to CNN.

A law prohibiting voter registration drives, which are primarily used to target potential voters in lower-income neighborhoods and college campuses, went into effect in Texas in 2011. Several of the new voting laws in states such as Ohio, North Carolina, Arizona and Arkansas are being challenged in court.

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