John Nichols: Romney's NAACP speech: Will he condemn voter suppression?

2012-07-11T04:30:00Z 2012-08-01T21:52:16Z John Nichols: Romney's NAACP speech: Will he condemn voter suppression?JOHN NICHOLS | The Capital Times | jnichols@madison.com madison.com

Mitt Romney is going to address the 103rd convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People on Wednesday.

Good. In recent years, Republican politicians have tended to criticize the NAACP, when they should be reaching out to the nation's oldest civil rights organization. Romney's acceptance of the group's invitation is the right response and he gets credit for showing up at the convention in Houston.

The Republican presidential contender's topic Wednesday will be "civic engagement."

Very good. In the United States, a republic that bends toward democracy, the highest form of civic engagement has historically taken the form of voting. Americans have suffered and struggled and died for the right to vote.

As NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous wisely notes: "If you let someone diminish the power of your vote, you will already have lost a battle."

Unfortunately, the NAACP and allied groups have been forced to refight too many old battles on behalf of voting rights in recent years.

Republican legislators in states across the country, working in conjunction with the corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council -- and, it was recently learned, the Republican National Committee -- have sought to enact and implement so-called "voted ID" laws. These laws have been condemned by good government groups, including the League of Women Voters and Common Cause, as assaults on voting rights.

The voter ID laws, new restrictions on same-day registration and early voting, purges of voting lists and other voter suppression schemes pose particular threats to civic engagement by African-American voters and others who have historically faced discrimination based on their race, ethnicity or national origin.

"Our democracy is literally under attack from within. We have wealthy interests seeking to buy elections and when that ain't enough, suppress the vote," says Jealous. "There is no battle that is more important or urgent to the NAACP right now than the battle to preserve democracy itself. Let me be very clear, our right to vote is the right upon which our ability to defend every other right is leveraged."

At the convention in Houston, Jealous and other NAACP activists have made the defense of voting rights a central focus. They are right to do so, especially in Texas, where local Republicans have been calling for the elimination of the Voting Rights Act -- and where a newly passed voter ID law has been described by Attorney General Eric Holder as a 21st century variation on the "poll tax."

The question that Romney must answer Wednesday is a simple one: Which side is he on?

Is Romney on the side of the NAACP and campaigners for voting rights -- including Republicans like his father, George Romney -- or is he on the side of those who would suppress the vote?

If the prospective Republican nominee for president is really interested in "civic engagement," he will call out those in his own party who seek to suppress voting rights. 

John Nichols is associate editor of The Capital Times. jnichols@madison.com

Copyright 2015 madison.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(15) Comments

  1. webmasterbigbrother
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    webmasterbigbrother - July 16, 2012 6:33 pm
    """""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""'New documents obtained by Media Trackers reveal that the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office recently subpoenaed the national office of the Service Employee International Union (SEIU) in Washington D.C. for the employment documents of a senior organizer currently under investigation for vote fraud in Wisconsin.

    Clarence S. Haynes, along with two other SEIU organizers, were uncovered by Media Trackers in October 2011 after they registered to vote for the contentious April 5, 2011 election using out-of-state IDs and claiming residence at a Glendale hotel."""""""""""""""""""""""

    nichols you going to do a piece on this little tidbit?

  2. glenrusswood
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    glenrusswood - July 15, 2012 5:30 am
    not possessing a valid ID anytime!
    you qualify for arrest by madison PD
  3. TOP SECRET
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    TOP SECRET - July 14, 2012 12:35 pm
    EXACTLY !
  4. TOP SECRET
    Report Abuse
    TOP SECRET - July 14, 2012 12:34 pm
    and FELON votes......and OUT OF STATE (nonresident) votes......but who cares?
  5. TOP SECRET
    Report Abuse
    TOP SECRET - July 14, 2012 12:30 pm
    shh......using too much COMMON SENSE will only make liberal's heads explode....lol.
  6. aspyder
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    aspyder - July 14, 2012 11:23 am
    “As NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous wisely notes: "If you let someone diminish the power of your vote, you will already have lost a battle."”

    And your vote is diminished by fraudulent votes.

    Voter ID has been an issue at least since the 90’s and you would have been hard pressed to find anyone who thought there was anything wrong with it back then. Voter suppression? I suppose if you voted more than once, or as someone else.

    But suddenly it’s a ‘poll tax’, even a free ID is a burden. Asking someone to actually prove who they are is just asking too much. Try telling that to the police next time you’re stopped for something. Well I’ve got news for you, it’s a burden getting to the polls and standing in line. Everything is a burden, UNLESS it’s something you really want to do.

    You have a constitutional right to vote, but you also have a constitutional right to assemble and own a gun. Try assembling at a public park without a permit. Try buying a gun without not only an ID but paying for a background check, and in the case of a handgun, returning to pick it up after a 3 days waiting period. If ‘rights’ are to be free of all cost and burden what about that assembly permit, background check fee and waiting period?
  7. tomtom33
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    tomtom33 - July 12, 2012 5:46 am
    No one knows much about voter fraud. When you don't or can't look, you can't find.
  8. RedNedLynch
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    RedNedLynch - July 11, 2012 8:09 pm
    Logicguy,
    The greatest thing about America is that you can choose your level of engagement in the civil and political process.

    Many times on these pages I've seen libs blaming their problems on ignorant and stupid voters.
    Is that what you're saying?
    Because ignorance and stupidity break evenly across partisan lines.
  9. Logicguy
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    Logicguy - July 11, 2012 7:37 pm
    Rather than obscess over minority vote suppression we should perhaps disinfrancise all those clueless citizens who can't name the vice president or the three branches of government or the importance of separation of powers or who the Founding Fathers were........etc. Just as important as voting is being an informed voter. Too many merely vote for the candidate who promises them the most goodies paid for by others.
  10. webmasterbigbrother
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    webmasterbigbrother - July 11, 2012 4:26 pm
    the blatant lie is that minorities are "disenfranchised" by voter ID laws.

    check the reality: in states with voter ID, the percentage of disenfranchised voters went up.

    over 70% of americans want voter ID laws.

    progressive claim ownership over those that might be disenfranchised for things they pick and choose.

    having to get a FREE ID to vote: progressives scream "they're trying to take away the right to vote.

    but change it to a subject like concealed carry permits, which disenfranchises the poor by forcing them to pay for the right to carry, and it's crickets from the progressives.

    why don't you stand up for all their rights? not just the ones that help your side at the voter booth.

  11. jd33
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    jd33 - July 11, 2012 9:55 am
    Voter ID is a way to disenfranchise illegal alien voters.
  12. YankeeBubba
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    YankeeBubba - July 11, 2012 9:52 am
    @Lynne4300;

    That's a blatant conservative racist lie...because actually EVERYONE had to show an I.D. to get in.

    The cynic in me is left to ponder if not having an I.D. impedes those without one from participating in the convention. What type of IST would that be?

    http://macsmind.com/wordpress/2012/07/ncaap-checks-ids-at-meeting-with-eric-holder-while-complaining-about-showing-id-cards-at-polling-booths/
  13. bookman21
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    bookman21 - July 11, 2012 9:39 am
    Voter fraud occurs at a rate of .004 of 1%. Voter ID is a blatant attempt to disenfranchise low income (read democratic) voters. We all know which way Mr. 1% will go.
  14. PapaLorax
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    PapaLorax - July 11, 2012 8:23 am
    If the NAACP wanted to help these people without IDs...they would help them get IDs. That single tool is likely far more helpful in advancing in society than a single cast vote.
  15. Lynne4300
    Report Abuse
    Lynne4300 - July 11, 2012 7:21 am
    News media had to show PHOTO ID to attend the event.
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