State lawmakers who are leading the charge in a slew of states across the country to enact more secure voting laws in place are firing back at an NAACP report that accused them of disenfranchising blacks and Hispanics.
Florida Republican State Rep. Dennis Baxley, who sponsored an election bill that was signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott in May, said he was “offended” that “accusations are being hurled” by the NAACP.
“This is the only legislature that can protect the election process from mischief, and there’s nothing in this election law that’s going to limit anybody’s participation,” Baxley told POLITICO. “All I’m trying to do is make sure that our election process is protected from abuse and that the results are credible — what in this bill applies differently to anyone of a difference race?”
Florida was one of the four states that experienced the largest growth in its African-American population during the last decade, the NAACP said in its report.
Baxley, a representative from Ocala whose bill reduced early voting days and limited where and when people can register to vote, added, “I’m particularly offended that they attack other people’s motives. Maybe I didn’t put the right ingredients into the law, but to accuse people of ulterior and evil motives is over the top and I resent that.”
The chief sponsors of several bills are reacting to a scathing NAACP report released on Monday, which attacked more than a dozen states for attempting to assault the voting rights of African-American and other minority communities through restrictive voting measures.
In the study, NAACP said 14 states across the country passed a total of 25 restrictive voting measures in 2011 in a collective “block the vote” effort aimed at targeting some of the very the minority groups that made a historical showing in the 2008 presidential election and helped put President Barack Obama at the White House.
According to the study, the voting measures were a direct response to the unprecedented levels of political participation by black voters and others of color in the 2008 election. NAACP President Ben Jealous on Monday vowed to battle against the states’ attempts to “disenfranchise people of color disproportionally” and “attack the very electoral strength that made possible the nation’s first black president.”
But the sponsors of some of the state measures say the NAACP is wrong to make such racially charged claims.
In Mississippi, where a ballot initiative requiring the state’s voters to show photo identification on Election Day passed the state Legislature by a wide margin in November, the state senator sponsor of the measure known as “Initiative 27” said the NAACP has been going around in circles for years making the same “ostrich argument.”
“Given the history of Mississippi’s voting rights with the Jim Crow laws, obviously I get where groups like NAACP might be coming form when they are legitimately suspicious any time we go about changing the way we vote. It goes back to ways in the past that no one’s proud of,” State Sen. Joey Fillingane told POLITICO.
“But they are making an ostrich argument, where you stick your head in the sand and say because of problems of the past, we won’t acknowledge any current day problems and dangers. Initiative 27 isn’t a panacea, but sure will go a long way into ensuring dead people won’t be voting anymore.”
The NAACP argued in its report that 25 percent of African-American voters and 16 percent of Latino voters do not possess valid government-issued photo ID.
Maine State Rep. Richard Cebra, who introduced a photo ID bill last year that he hopes will become law in 2012, said NAACP’s claim of disenfranchisement is way off base.
“That’s just their smoke-and-mirrors argument. In a state like Maine, we don’t have any large minority groups that would even be disenfranchised,” said Cebra. “The progressive left, they try to they play that same string over and over again: Disenfranchisement, disenfranchisement, disenfranchisement.”
He added, “They try to throw that Jim Crow nonsense at me here in Maine, and not only is it insulting, it’s just so not even on topic. It’s absolutely insulting nonsense — a cheap ploy. … None of this has anything to do with race.”
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