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NAACP Legal Defense Fund Calls on State of Alabama to Stop Using Discriminatory Voucher Tests

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5/29/14

NAACP Legal Defense Fund Calls on State of Alabama to Stop Using Discriminatory Voucher Test

Jim Crow-Era Voucher Tests “Have No Place in Modern Day Alabama”

In clear violation of the Voting Rights Act, the State of Alabama has proposed a set of rules that will require an otherwise eligible voter who lacks the required photo identification to prove his or her identity by the "voucher" of a class of mostly white poll officials.

"It is deeply problematic that Alabama's Secretary of State is trying to resurrect an unconstitutional and illegal relic of the Jim Crow South," said Ryan P. Haygood, Director of the Political Participation Group at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. "Discriminatory voucher tests, which Congress explicitly banned along with literacy tests when it passed the Voting Rights Act in 1965, have no place in modern day Alabama," Haygood added.

The Alabama Secretary of State's proposed rules would require a voter without photo identification to show that he or she is personally acquainted with an election official in order to vote. NAACP LDF wants the Secretary of State to instead adopt rules that will allow people without photo identification to vote by signing an affidavit or showing non-photo identification.

In a letter sent today to Jean Brown, the Chief Legal Advisor to Alabama’s Secretary of State, NAACP LDF details the racially toxic legislative session in which the photo identification law was passed and the tremendous burdens that the photo identification requirement and voucher test, together, will have on the half of a million registered voters in Alabama who lack state-issued photo identification:

"[T]he broad discretion that your proposed rules vest in election officials across the State, in tandem, make clear that the State intends to operate both the photo and positive identification requirements as unconstitutional devices to permit racial discrimination."

Alabama's proposed rules will likely disfranchise thousands of voters of color in the state. Indeed, according to a recent Reuters poll cited in today’s letter, 37 percent of white people in Alabama have no acquaintances of a different race. Thus, many white poll officials will not be able to vouch for the disproportionate numbers of people of color who lack photo identification.

“It is imperative that Alabama act quickly before the June 3rd election," said Deuel Ross, Fried Frank Fellow at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. "This voucher test is exactly the kind of discriminatory device that the Voting Rights Act was designed to stop and that Sections 5 would have prevented were it not for the United States Supreme Court's devastating decision in Shelby County, Alabama vs. Holder,” Ross added.

Click here to read the letter NAACP LDF sent to Alabama's Secretary of State.  

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