Jackson blasts voter ID legislation at conference

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 19, 2011 1:03 AM
Jackson blasts voter ID legislation at conference

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Civil rights activist Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr. on Saturday called on the Justice Department to reverse recent Republican-led legislative efforts that require voters to present photo identification at polls.

Twenty-seven states now require photo identification from voters and 33 have considered adding or strengthening voter identification requirements this year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

"Now governors and legislators in over 30 states are engaged in a radical rollback of our civil and voting rights," Jackson said to a gathering that included state lawmakers at a conference for his social justice organization, the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, according to a statement from the group.

Republican-controlled legislatures around the county have cited fraud as they push for voter ID bills. Jackson, a former shadow senator for the District of Columbia, is among scores of Democrats who characterize the measures as voter suppression efforts.

The delegation of lawmakers at the 40th annual conference decried such bills, as well as budget cutbacks and early voting regulations, as thinly veiled political maneuvers aimed at weakening Democrats.

"It's restrictive in the sense that not only must you have your ID but in order to get the ID you must produce a birth certificate," said Representative Joe Neal of South Carolina, where Governor Nikki Haley signed a voter ID bill in May.

"If you've been married and your name has changed you must produce a marriage certificate ... These barriers go on and on," Neal said.

At the signing ceremony for the legislation, Haley had said: "If you can show a picture to buy Sudafed, if you can show a picture to get on an airplane, you should be able to show a picture to make sure that we do what is incredibly inherent in our freedoms and that is the ability to vote."

(Reporting by Eric Johnson; Editing by Jerry Norton)