By ERRIN HAINES, Associated Press
ATLANTA (AP) — Saying it won't let recently enacted voter ID laws suppress turnout, the NAACP on Wednesday launched a nationwide drive to register thousands of mostly minority, student and elderly voters before the Nov. 6 elections.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People says these groups could be the ones most affected by laws requiring them to show identification before they can exercise their right to vote.
NAACP President Ben Jealous said the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization would work harder and smarter to meet the new voting requirements. He framed them as a negative reaction to historic voter turnout in 2008 that led to Barack Obama's election as the first black U.S. president.
"Were we students of history, we would've expected that night, when everybody was celebrating, that we needed to be preparing for what we're dealing with right now," he said, referring to election night 2008. "We saw the largest most diverse presidential electorate this country has ever seen.
"Every time that the vote has been expanded, especially for black people in this country, it has been followed by a massive backlash," Jealous added. "We will ensure that those who intend to steal this election cannot."
It is unclear whether or how such laws may affect voter turnout in the fall.
For example, in Georgia, — the first state to hold a major election in which voter ID laws were in effect — black turnout jumped from 25 percent in 2004 to 30 percent in 2008, when Obama was elected, despite the new requirements. Overall turnout also was the largest in state history.
Jealous said the NAACP is the only group outside of the two major political parties with a voter database for all 50 states. The organization has operations in 1,200 communities and on 150 college campuses.
The strategy also includes the return of the NAACP's national voter empowerment hotline, registration mailings to more than 1 million black youth who will turn 18 by Election Day and partnerships with national religious organizations and black fraternities and sororities.
The NAACP also has been training volunteers for nearly a year. Jealous said it is focusing on a dozen states: Virginia, Ohio, New York, North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida, Mississippi, Texas, Missouri, California and Georgia.
According to the Pew Research Center, the 2008 election saw record turnout among blacks, Hispanics and Asians, with black women accounting for the highest voter turnout rate among all racial, ethnic and gender groups for the first time. Voter turnout among blacks ages 18 to 29 also was higher than that of young eligible voters of any other racial and ethnic group that year, another first.
Nearly all black voters, or 95 percent, cast ballots for Obama.
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