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NAACP leader, Paul differ on need for voting rights laws

by Joe Arnold


Posted on August 15, 2013 at 5:41 PM

Updated Thursday, Aug 15 at 9:37 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky (WHAS11) -- The head of the Louisville branch of the NAACP says U.S. Senator Rand Paul is wrong to suggest that the fight against minority voter suppression is a relic of the Civil Rights Movement and no longer relevant to the present day.

In remarks to the Louisville Forum on Wednesday, Paul said while there was "definitely a time" for the Voting Rights Act's extra scrutiny of voter laws in states notorious for disenfranchising blacks, that time has passed.

"I don't think there is objective evidence that we're precluding African Americans from voting any longer," Paul said, pointing to higher than ever black voter turnout in states targeted by the Voting Rights Act.

"The vote is up, and it was up," acknowledged Raoul Cunningham, President of the Louisville branch of the NAACP, " but that was before these laws were passed."

While Paul spoke in Louisville, Cunningham was attending a voting rights summit in Washington to respond to the Supreme Court overturning parts of the Voting Rights Act which he said has created openings for states with Republican lawmakers to pass new voter laws.

"They don't want the vote to be up again in four years or two years," Cunningham said.

Paul said he has no problem with a new North Carolina law that requires voters to present their drivers licenses.

"I don't have a problem with showing your drivers license to vote," Paul said.  "I mean, you show your drivers license to get into most federal buildings now."

"When I mentioned this not too long ago I had somebody stand up and say, 'Well, these voter laws are just like the poll tax and the literacy tests in the South," Paul said, "and I think that is a disservice to the people who fought against those things."

"There was a time in the South when African Americans were absolutely prohibited from voting by selective application of bizarre, absurd literacy tests," Paul continued.  "And that was an abomination.  That's why we needed the Voting Rights Act. But that's not -- showing your ID."

"A lot of poor people don't have drivers licenses," Cunningham countered.  "Therefore they have to figure out how they can vote."

The North Carolina law also shortens the early voting period and removes straight ticket voting.

"The intent is to suppress the vote and to suppress minorities, the elderly and college students," Cunningham argued, saying those constituencies are who elected Barack Obama president.

"I think that some people are a little bit stuck in the past when they want to compare this," Paul said.