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Sixteen States Could Inhibit 10 Million Eligible Latino Voters

(Photo: KCIvey)

North Carolina is one of several states that could inhibit 10 million eligible Latino voters from registering and participating to vote, according to a new report authored by a national civil rights group.

A report released Monday by The Advancement Project names North Carolina among the 16 states that are either pursuing citizenship-related purges on their voter rolls or have adopted such policies. Battleground states such as Colorado, Florida, Iowa and Ohio also are listed.

The report, based on government data, identifies demands for proof of citizenship, photo identification requirements and voter roll purges that could pose legal barriers to Latino participation in this fall’s elections.

“Our goal is to ensure communities of color are not intimidated or silent,” Penda Hair, co-director of the Advancement Project, said in a telephone news conference Monday.

Hair said targeting registered voters who are citizens and removing them from voter rolls or requiring individuals to show documented proof of citizenship is an “old playbook” being used on “a new emerging voter demographic.”

Katherine Culliton-González, senior attorney and director of Voter Protection for Advancement Project, said North Carolina was included in the report because “we feel Latino voters could be intimidated.”

In July, North Carolina joined Colorado and 12 other states petitioning the Department of Homeland Security for access to its Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) data “for the purpose of identifying possible noncitizens to purge from voter rolls,” according to the report.

“We are hoping to convince states like North Carolina to not purge right now,” Culliton-González said. In North Carolina, 68.7 percent of naturalized citizens are people of color – including more than 25 percent who are Latinos, Culliton-González said.

The Charlotte Observer has reported 2 percent of North Carolina’s 6.4 million registered voters are Hispanic. The number of registered Latino voters in the state is about 100,000: double what it was in 2008.

Last year, North Carolina’s Republican-controlled General Assembly passed a bill that would have required voters to show a photo ID at the polls. Gov. Bev Perdue, a Democrat, vetoed it.

Advocates argue that voter ID would ensure against fraud. Though few cases of actual voting fraud have surfaced, they say it’s because nobody’s looked hard enough.

A supporter of a voter ID requirement, state Rep. Ruth Samuelson, R-Mecklenburg, said in an emailed statement that “in today’s society everyone needs a photo ID for their own safety and convenience. Whether it is purchasing over the counter products or cashing a check, photo IDs are required in everyday transactions.”

Samuelson also said that the bill Perdue vetoed last year “would have provided a way for folks without IDs to get them thus providing a service while protecting the integrity of our elections.”

Susan Myrick, elections policy analyst with the Raleigh-based Civitas Institute, said the voter ID legislation Purdue vetoed allowed for individuals without identification to receive free ID cards from the state.

“Voter ID is a safeguard against voter impersonation,” said Myrick, no relation to the Republican congresswoman of the same name. “The left says there’s no proof of voter impersonation, but it’s the hardest thing to detect without a law.”

There were more than 21 million Hispanics of voting age in 2010, according to census data. But of that number, nearly 6.3 million – or 29 percent – reported that they were unregistered and 10.8 million – or close to 51 percent – reported they did not vote. By comparison, there were 172.4 million non-Hispanic white citizens eligible to vote in 2010, with close to 18 percent unregistered and 38 percent who said they did not vote, the report said.

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