MLK Day NAACP rally in South Carolina focuses on voters’ rights

Speakers at this year’s Martin Luther King Day rally organized by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in South Carolina focused on voters’ rights, the Associated Press reported.

"Protecting the right to vote, ensuring meaningful access, and combating discrimination must be viewed, not only as a legal issue, but as a moral imperative," Keynote speaker US Attorney General Eric Holder told hundreds of people from the steps of the South Carolina state capitol, Reuters reported. "Ensuring that every eligible citizen has the right to vote must become our common cause."

According to the AP:

For most of 13 years in South Carolina, the attention at the NAACP’s annual rally has been on the Confederate flag that still waves outside the Statehouse. But on Monday, the civil rights group shifted the focus to laws requiring voters to show photo identification before they can cast ballots, which the group and many other critics say is especially discriminatory toward African-Americans and the poor.

South Carolina is one of six Republican-run states that tightened their laws in 2011 to require voters to show photo ID in order to vote, Reuters reported. The Justice Department blocked South Carolina’s law, arguing that it could disenfranchise tens of thousands of people, but the state is preparing to fight the ruling in court, Reuters reported. Some 25 states require voters to show identification before voting, according to Reuters.

More from GlobalPost: Study: New state voting laws impact 5 million

Proponents of such laws say they cut down on voter fraud, but studies have shown very little voter fraud occurs in the United States, the Miami Herald reported. "The spate of recent laws – the state ID laws, the laws that cut out voting on Sundays. The rationale [is] voter fraud, when we know the evidence of significant voter fraud is zero," Norman Ornstein, a political research scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, told the Miami Herald. "I'm left with the conclusion that it's an attempt to shape the electorate."

“This has been quite a faith-testing year. We have seen the greatest attack on voting rights since segregation,” NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous, told the crowd, according to the AP.

"We need – and the American people deserve – election systems that are free from discrimination, free from partisan influence and free from fraud," Holder said, according to the Miami Herald. "And we must do everything within our power to make certain that these systems are more, not less, accessible to the citizens of this country."

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