The Rev. Jesse Jackson kicked off the Rainbow PUSH Coalition’s 40th annual conference Saturday by warning that photo ID laws in some states impinge on the voting rights of blacks, college students and others who are less likely to carry official identification.
Speaking before about 150 people at Rainbow PUSH headquarters in the Kenwood neighborhood, Jackson said the requirement that voters in Indiana, Georgia and six other states bring photo ID cards to the polls is a new form of disenfranchisement. PUSH remains important four decades after he founded the organization in Chicago, Jackson said, because it brings attention to these issues.
“We’ve come full circle,” Jackson said from the stage, conjuring memories of the civil rights battles he waged alongside the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s. “All that Dr. King stood for, fought for, that we now honor him for, is under attack.”
Jackson was joined by state legislators from Indiana, South Carolina and elsewhere in starting the five-day conference. Attendees plan to discuss how the gains of the civil rights movement are being eroded.
Jackson called on Justice Department officials to investigate the legality of voter identification laws, which vary from state to state..
“It is their job, it is their duty to intervene,” Jackson said.
Eight states have passed laws requiring voters to produce photo ID cards before they’re allowed to cast regular election ballots, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In some of those states, the federal government has to give clearance before the laws can take effect under provisions of the Voting Rights Act.
In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker recently signed legislation to enact the requirement there, joining Indiana and Kansas among Midwestern states with such laws. Illinois does not require voters to show photo identification at election polls.
Although supporters of such measures say they help curb vote fraud, Jackson argued on Saturday that they disproportionately hurt traditional Democratic Party constituents such as African-Americans and Latinos.