NAACP Brings U.S. Voting Rights Problems Before UN Human Rights Commission

An NAACP delegation is in Geneva, Switzerland this week to bring the issue of voting rights in the United States before the United Nations Human Rights Commission.

The group -- the first NAACP delegation of its kind in decades -- plans to bring global attention to attempts by dozens of states to limit voter participation by limiting the forms of acceptable identification, shortening early voting opportunities, restricting where and when eligible voters may register, and banning formerly incarcerated citizens from the polls. The new legislation threatens the voting rights of millions of US citizens, with people of color affected disproportionately.

“The United States has always been a beacon of democracy for other nations,” said Roslyn M. Brock, Chairman of the NAACP Board of Directors. “When we do not uphold the highest standard, it can have major implications for democracy advocates across the globe.”

The NAACP first brought a delegation before the United Nations Human Rights Council in 1947, when W.E.B. Dubois delivered his famous speech “An Appeal to the World” warning the global body about threats to voting rights in the United States."

“We’ve come full circle,” said NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. “In the past year more states in this country have passed more laws pushing more voters out of the ballot box than at any point since the dawn of Jim Crow.”

Accompanying NAACP leaders are delegates Austin Alex and Kemba Smith. Alex, a student at Texas Christian University, will not be able to vote this year under a new Texas law that does not recognize his California drivers license as a valid form of identification. Smith is barred from voting in the state of Virginia under legislation that prohibits the formerly incarcerated from the polls. Smith had been convicted of a drug-related offense in 1992, but was later granted clemency by President Clinton when the president learned she had been convicted without ever selling, handling or using drugs.

Last December, the NAACP and the NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund released a report, “Defending Democracy: Confronting Modern Barriers to Voting Rights in the United States.” The report revealed direct connections between the trend of increasing, unprecedented African American and Latino voter turnout and an onslaught of restrictive measures across the country designed to stem electoral strength among communities of color. Downloadable copies of the report are available at

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