St. Louis –The Rev. Al Sharpton, speaking at a symposium on voter ID laws at Harris-Stowe State University, implored
minority voters to do more to combat voter identification proposals in Missouri and across the nation.
Sharpton compared the enhanced voter ID effort to the Jim Crow laws of the south, which were overturned by the Civil Rights Movement.
“In those days, they were fighting Jim Crow,” Sharpton said. “Today, we’re fighting James Crow Jr., Esquire. He’s a little more polished than his daddy. He’s a little more educated. He talks in more refined way. But the results and the goals are the same. Jim Crow said ‘I’m going to have a poll tax. I’m going to ask you how many bubbles are in a bar of soap….’ James Crow Jr. is too smart for that. He says you’ve got to have a government photo ID.”
VOTING RIGHTS AT RISK
Last week’s event was organized by U.S. Rep. William Lacy (D-St. Louis) to raise awareness about laws and legislation in several states that would require voters to show a state-issued form of ID in order to vote.
Clay’s office says 38 states have passed laws such as voter identification measures that critics say could keep as many as 5 million Americans from voting.
Missouri voters are scheduled to consider a constitutional amendment this year that would clear the way for requiring voters to show photo identification. The ballot issue is the target of a federal court challenge.
In the measure succeeds, Clay said, 254,000 registered Missouri voters risk being turned away from the polls because they lack a government issued photo ID. He said another 100,000 have expired IDs.
Clay said the symposium was not about any candidate or political party. “It’s about something far more important – protecting the Constitution. And nothing in that document is more fundamental than the right to vote.
“The right to vote is under coordinated assault by means of discriminatory photo ID laws, barriers that prevent ex-felons from regaining their right to vote, obstacles faced by the disabled to gain access to the ballot, deliberate attempts to impede voting by new American citizens and the opportunity to use inactive voter lists to disenfranchise infrequent voters.”
BLOODY AND DRAMATIC
Sharpton challenged those in attendance at Friday’s symposium to do more – and encourage others to do more – to combat voter suppression laws in Missouri and across the nation.
“Many of us do not respond to civil rights unless it is bloody and dramatic,” Sharpton said. “If we were talking about a police shooting, we would all be up in arms.”
Sharpton recently spearheaded a re-enactment of the historic Selma to Montgomery, Alabama march to protest voter suppression laws, which he said target minorities and are clearly aimed at keeping certain voters – particularly black and Latino voters who might support President Barack Obama for re-election – away from the polls.
“They are moving at a rapid pace to undo everything that was achieved in the last half century,” Sharpton said of those backing the voter ID measures.
“Just like there were those engaged in struggle to get us the right to vote, you and I must be engaged in struggle to maintain the right to vote,” Sharpton said. “Don’t tell me what you would have done back then. Tell me what you will do right now.”