For Release: August 12, 2015
Contact: Judy Kent at (703) 759-7476 or [email protected]
Mr. President, Don't Use the 50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act to Divide Americans
Celebrate the Achievement, Black Leadership Group Says
Washington, D.C. - Members of the Project 21 black leadership network are hitting back against President Barack Obama's use of the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act to divide Americans from one another and to promote a political agenda.
The Voting Rights Act anniversary is a time for celebration, say Project 21 members, who say it was inappropriate for the President to use his speech noting the occasion to falsely accuse his political rivals of "deliberately making it harder for people to vote" and of intentionally passing "laws that aim at disenfranchising our fellow citizens."
In fact, the Project 21 members say, efforts to reduce voter fraud protect the votes of eligible voters from being cancelled out by fraudulent votes, and no less a body than the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality, and arguably even the wisdom, of requiring IDs to vote.
The President claims identity-based voter fraud flat-out "doesn't happen" - a claim belied by a consistent stream of voter fraud arrests and convictions nationally. (Websites archiving news stories about voter fraud can be found here and here.)
"President Obama has been in Chicago way too long if he thinks there is no corruption in Chicago or Illinois politics," said Project 21 founding member Bishop Council Nedd II, Ph.D., Bishop and Rector of St. Alban's Anglican Church in Pine Grove Mills, PA. Furthermore, Bishop Nedd says, "President Obama is wrong and lying when he claims that too many states are making it too difficult for people to vote. There is no correlation between people being denied the opportunity to vote based on race, and people showing proof of identity as a way of protecting this process and right."
Indeed, Project 21 members say, the Voting Rights Act was never intended to be used to prohibit commonsense anti-fraud measures.
"The purpose of the Voting Rights Act was to guarantee that all Americans -- black or white -- living in a given jurisdiction had a say in the selection of elected officials, and thereby influence over the laws and the policies that they are governed by. In other words, the VRA ensured self-government occurred all across the country. The VRA was never about guaranteeing a certain number of seats in the legislature or on the city council," said Project 21 Co-Chairman Horace Cooper, an attorney and voting rights expert.
"Unfortunately, rather than celebrate these achievements, the White House has chosen to deny these accomplishments and to distort the purposes of the VRA," Cooper continued. "Focusing more on quotas and racial outcomes, the administration counters the very history and rationale of the VRA. In particular, the President's singular attack on voter ID, a critical tool for ensuring that bona fide Americans vote in U.S. elections, contradicts the history and consensus regarding the VRA."
"Maybe President Obama should convene a summit of Americans without valid identification and invite them to the White House for a meeting with him," added Bishop Nedd, who notes that a lack of ID is actually a humanitarian issue that goes far beyond voting, as IDs are needed to open a bank account, apply for jobs, student loans and/or public assistance, to fly anywhere for job interviews or work, or even to visit the President in the White House. Since the White House is not working to eliminate the need for IDs to participate fully in the economy or to visit our public servants, Bishop Nedd says, the President's priority should be to make certain every citizen has an ID, not simply to make sure IDs are not needed to vote.
The Project 21 members also wonder why the President seems reluctant to acknowledge that huge progress has been made over the last 50 years.
"In the 50 years since the passage of the Voting Rights Act, America has seen a sea-change in attitudes and opportunity for citizens of all races and backgrounds," said Horace Cooper. "Today blacks and other minorities have unprecedented ballot access that our grandparents could only have dreamed about. We've seen the election of the first President of color elected, along with numerous Senators, Governors and Mayors across the land."
Furthermore, Cooper says, "During the last two election cycles several states set records for black voter participation -- often exceeding the turnout levels for the general population in the process."
Much has changed, says Bishop Nedd. "My grandfather, who was born in Maysville, South Carolina and died in 1964, never cast a vote in an election his entire life. This happened for a variety of reasons, including the fact that he was not permitted to vote, was discouraged from voting, saw the consequences of attempting to vote and, finally, became used to not voting."
That's wrong, but it couldn't happen today. As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, our leaders should join us in celebrating that important fact.
Project 21, a leading voice of black conservatives for over two decades, is sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research (http://www.nationalcenter.org). The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank.
- 30 -