LOS ANGELES — The NAACP plans a big push to increase minority turnout in the 2012 elections, hoping to gain political influence and turn back what the civil rights group says are efforts in various states to deny minorities the right to vote.
To do it, the group is going to reach out to black churches, fraternities and sororities as well as use sophisticated databases, social media and boost training of volunteers to include things like getting a contact for each voter they register.
"The days of the 45-minute workshop are over," said Roger Vann, chief operating officer of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People at the group's annual convention on Wednesday.
Preserving voting rights is a key theme at the convention, which is being held in downtown Los Angeles through Thursday.
"We must fight against any attempt to segregate, isolate and steal the black vote," said the Rev. William Barber, president of the NAACP's North Carolina conference.
Barber noted that after a record 92 percent black turnout in the 2008 presidential election, in 2010 15 million blacks did not vote, including 3 million who were registered.
Panelists at a session on building black political power painted a grim picture of how low income minority voters are being disenfranchised by new laws in many states.
Such laws require a state-issued photo ID in order to vote, a current address on IDs, restrictions on restoring voter rights to ex-felons, limiting early and Sunday voting and voter registration by third-party groups like the NAACP and League of Women Voters
"These laws were all passed with the intent of reducing the minority vote," said David Bositis, senior research associate of the Joint Center of Political and Economic Studies in Washington D.C.
A voter ID law in Wisconsin will disenfranchise 71 percent of African-American men in Milwaukee, Barber noted.
Judith A. Browne-Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project in Washington D.C., said part of any voter drive must include getting people proper identification. "We got to education our people how to get these IDs," she said.
Browne-Dianis noted that the U.S. Supreme Court has already upheld the constitutionality of one of these ID laws, but other challenges on different legal grounds are being mounted, including their discriminatory impact.
Republicans have long tried to push photo IDs and other changes to voting procedures, and have seen success since the 2010 midterm elections, which saw many state legislatures swing to GOP majorities.
Republicans say the laws are needed to combat voter impersonation and other types of voter fraud, including ballots cast by non-citizen immigrants.
Since the people most likely not to have drivers licenses are young people and minorities, who skew Democratic, Democrats largely oppose the laws, arguing that there are few proven cases of voter impersonation.
The extra step of getting a license, or paying a fee to obtain a copy of a birth certificate, is likely to inhibit many voters from voting, they say.
Republicans counter that ID laws are commonplace and there is no evidence that minorities are negatively impacted. They point to Georgia, which has had a photo ID law since 2007, and saw a record turnout of minority voters in 2008 and 2010.