NAACP Holds Convention Under Federal Scrutiny for Voter Intimidation
by David Almasi
Washington, DC - As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to rule on what could constitute major reform of how the Voting Rights Act currently judges certain states and localities on race -- a case the NAACP vociferously opposes -- the civil rights lobby group will nonetheless hold a "premier" conference in a Florida county that is monitored under such "preclearance" voting standards. Members of the conservative Project 21 black leadership network wonder why the NAACP, which participates in high-profile boycotts of states for civil rights reasons, would choose to hold a major event in a place they apparently cannot trust to protect the rights of minority voters.
"It seems hypocritical that the NAACP wants to tell the rest of America where they can go, but they are holding a conference in a place where they must assume institutional racism occurs, since they unflinching support the nearly half-century-old profiling contained in the Voting Rights Act," said Cherylyn Harley LeBon, co-chairman of Project 21. "Yet the NAACP will be partying in sunny Collier County -- seemingly oblivious of the contempt and fear they are supposed to have of the people who live and work there."
The NAACP will hold its 9th annual "Leadership 500 Summit" at the Waldorf Astoria resort and spa in Naples, Florida on May 23rd through 26th. Naples is located in Collier County -- one of four Florida counties whose voting procedures must undergo federal scrutiny due to "preclearance" standards mandated nearly 50 years ago by the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
A decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Shelby County, Alabama v. Eric H. Holder, Jr., to be announced before the end of June, could reform the law's preclearance standards contained in Section 5 of the Act and allow the counties, townships and entire states that must now obtain federal approval for changes to any voting procedures - due to election irregularities that occurred in the 1964 general election - to rule independently on such matters.
Speaking out in defense of maintaining the status quo, NAACP president and CEO Ben Jealous recently wrote on The Root website that "the most egregious era of voter suppression will be allowed to repeat itself" if the Voting Rights Act is altered. Additionally, in another commentary published by CNN and co-authored with Penda D. Hair, Jealous wrote: "At a time when voting rights are under attack, we should be expanding federal oversight of voting laws -- not scrapping the most effective civil rights legislation ever enacted." No decision by the Court, however, is expected to come anywhere near to overturning the Voting Rights Act in total.
Despite the concern shown by Jealous about the alleged threat to voting rights, the NAACP is hosting their event in a place that allegedly, based on the NAACP's strong opposition to the intent of Shelby County plaintiffs, still harbors palpable racial animosity.
The NAACP has engaged in recent high-profile boycotts of entire states for similar perceived racial insensitivity. For example, the NAACP began a boycott of South Carolina in 1999 over the presence of a Confederate battle flag on the grounds of the Statehouse. The NAACP also joined a boycott of the state of Arizona that began in 2010 over the passage of a state-level law to enforce many existing federal laws against illegal immigration.
"What's good enough for South Carolina and Arizona should be good enough for Collier County," said Project 21 co-chairman Horace Cooper. "Why is it that the people in those states are forced to suffer under the economic boycott edict of the NAACP, but the NAACP elite can relax in a county that they feel can't be trusted to administer an election without government oversight? It's a glaring double-standard."
The NAACP's "Leadership 500 Summit" is billed as "two-and-a-half days of workshops, interactive panel discussions and general sessions" for "networking" between "executives, educators, managers, thought leaders and for those aspiring leaders from the corporate, non-profit, health and government sectors." Jealous and NAACP chairman Roslyn M. Brock are expected to attend the Collier County event.
A legal brief that Project 21 filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in the Shelby County case states: "Section 5... is not consistent with the letter and spirit of the Constitution... [N]ew circumstances now place even covered jurisdictions well ahead of where non-covered jurisdictions were in 1965, and provide an ongoing political check against backsliding. The urgent necessity for extreme measures such as preclearance is thus well past, and such legislation is no longer appropriate."
Project 21's brief also charges the Obama Administration abuses the Voting Rights Act to practice racial politics. Noting efforts to promote and protect minority-majority voting districts despite a lack of evidence of minority voter disfranchisement, the Project 21 brief argues: "Section 5 itself is now a central tool for institutionalized racial discrimination at the command of the [Obama Justice Department] itself."
Project 21 joined a friend of the Court legal brief urging the Supreme Court to take the Shelby County case last September, which the court did, and submitted a second brief urging the court to strike down Section 5 enforcement in January. Project 21 was the only conservative group on hand for interviews the day the case was argued before the Court, and members were interviewed and cited with regard to the case over 100 times alone this year -- including with Reuters, the Westwood One radio network, Blaze TV and the Washington Examiner.
Project 21, a leading voice of black conservatives for two decades, is sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative, free-market, non-profit think-tank established in 1982. Contributions to the National Center are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated.