Rev. Al Sharpton, keynoting a congressman’s event on voting rights, said voter ID laws are simply an evolution of Jim Crow laws.
“Decades ago, African-Americans battled ‘Jim Crow’ laws aimed at keeping us from the polls,” Sharpton said. “Now, we’re fighting ‘James S. Crow Jr. Esquire.’ He talks in a more refined way … but the result is the same.”
The voting rights symposium was hosted Friday by Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) at Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis. It included Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) and Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wisc.), as well as state legislators and representatives from the NAACP and DNC.
“Junior’s a little more polished than his daddy, a little more educated, he talks in a refined way,” Sharpton continued. “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 in a bar of soap’. James Crow Jr. is too smart for that. He says ‘You have to have a government-issued photo I.D’.”
The organizers are trying to keep a Missouri constitutional amendment from being passed, which would work around a 2006 state supreme court ruling that declared a previous photo ID law to be unconstitutional.
“Nothing in our constitution is more fundamental than the right to vote,” Clay said. “Across this country, in 38 states, that right is under assault.Up to five million registered voters are at risk of being disenfranchised. Right here in Missouri, our Secretary of State reports that 254,000 registered voters are at risk of being turned away from the polls because they lack a government-issued photo ID. Another 100,000 Missouri voters have expired photo IDs. And that’s just a small example of what is happening across this country.”
At a retirement home in a video uploaded yesterday, Clay said it was not a racial issue but one that could disproportionately affect seniors.
“It impacts the disabled community,” Clay said. “Those who may be paraplegic, or quadriplegic, or may be blind. I’d be very concerned if a blind person had a driver’s license.