NAACP blasts GOP's 'withering attacks on voting rights'

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While Republicans kicked off their presidential nominating convention, leaders of the NAACP accused state and national Republicans of attacking the voting rights of people of color.

Calling the lack of attention to issues important to minorities during the presidential campaign a “crisis of silence over substance,” NAACP president Benjamin Todd Jealous called on both the Barack Obama and Mitt Romney campaigns to address such issues as voting rights, criminal justice, and racial disparities in education, health, and economic advancement.

“And now that we hear that there will not be any moderators of color during the upcoming presidential debates,” Jealous said, “we really are concerned that [President Barack Obama and former Gov. Mitt Romney] will not be forced to tackle these issues head on.”

The NAACP submitted policy recommendations to both parties’ platform committees, is sending a delegation to Tampa, Florida to meet with GOP leaders, and plans to do the same with the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte next week.

Shelton plans to meet with “individual delegates and groups of delegates, trying to find some common ground.” And he and Jealous said they also would meet with Republicans who had approached NAACP leaders “quietly” over their own concerns regarding voter ID laws and other issues dividing the party from African-Americans.

“We believe we have an agenda that should transcend petty party politics,” Shelton said, citing high unemployment rates for black Americans, which remained double those of whites even during the 1990s, when white unemployment reached 4 percent, as well as racial disparities in the application of criminal justice, and what Shelton called “racial profiling [that] has expanded to include other ethnic and minority members” and “anti immigration” laws.

But it is voting rights, and in particular voter ID laws passed by several Republican-led states, that were the focus of the sharpest criticism by the NAACP leaders. And Jealous lamented that while the Republican Party has a history of supporting the expansion of civil rights, “with the passing of [former congressman] Jack Kemp and other Republicans of a previous era, “there are fewer people to meet with, frankly.”

“We have seen some positive signs on criminal justice reform,” Jealous said, citing work the NAACP has done with Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, “but some terrifying signs when it comes to voting rights.”

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