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Inside Story: US 2012
Can the Republicans attract black voters?
As Romney fails to impress top US civil rights group, we ask what alienates African-Americans from the Republican party.
Last Modified: 12 Jul 2012 15:14

The implementation of a controversial voter ID law in at least 10 US states has angered many in the country's African-American and Latino communities.

"One of the major issues for the African-American community is race ... things like racial profiling, institutional racism .... You have a [Republican] party that doesn't address those things in any way but also pendars through its base around racial issues in order to sort of gin up more controversy and more support"

- James Braxton Peterson, a political analyst specialising in African-American issues

And the leading civil rights group in the US has called it "an attack on democracy from within".

The Republican-backed law requires voters to show government-issued photo identification when they go to the polls in November.

But the US justice department says this would disqualify hundreds of thousands of people from voting.

"Under the proposed law, concealed handgun licences would be acceptable forms of ID but student IDs would not. Many of those without IDs would have to travel great distances to get them and some would struggle to pay for the documents they might need to obtain them. We call those poll taxes. Let me be very clear, we will not allow political pretext to disenfranchise American citizens of their most precious right," said Eric Holder, US attorney general.

The issue stoked further controversy recently when a senior Republican official in Pennsylvania said the law would allow presidential candidate Mitt Romney to win the state.

Democrats say the law overwhelmingly favours the Republican party.

It has been one of the dominant topics at the annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) taking place this week.

"He [Romney] gets a lot of admiration from people who maybe haven't yet taken notice, for his willingness to go before an audience that might have been hostile. And for him to at least stick to the script to say the same things that he said to that audience that he's been saying all around the country, certainly, this is one way to get the attention of those voters."

- Reverend Joe Watkins, a Republican strategist and former White House aide to President George W Bush

The unemployment rate for African-Americans, has increased from 12.7 per cent to 14.4 per cent, during Obama's presidency.

As for voter ID reforms, 16 states have passed restrictive voting laws that have the potential to impact the 2012 election. They account for 214 electoral college votes, nearly 79 per cent of the total needed to win the presidency.

The US justice department says the restrictions could disqualify about 600,000 people from voting, many of them from minority groups.

Supporters say the law protects against voter fraud but a study found that instances of such offences are incredibly rare.

Between 2000 and 2010, just 13 credible cases of voter impersonation occured.

On Wednesday, Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney also spoke to NAACP delegates in an attempt to pry away support from President Barack Obama.

"I believe that if you understood who I truly am in my heart and if it were possible to communicate what is in the real enduring best interest of African-American families, you would vote for me for president," said Romney.

"Now I want you to know that if I did not believe that my policies and my leadership would help families of colour, and families of any colour, more than the policies and leadership of President Obama, I wouldn't be running for president," added the Republican.

So, can the Republicans attract black voters?

Inside Story US2012, with presenter Anand Naidoo, discusses with guests: James Braxton Peterson, a political analyst who specialises in African-American issues; Jason Johnson, a professor of political science at Hiram University; and Reverand Joe Watkins, a Republican strategist and former White House aide to President George W Bush.

 

"Mitt Romney was talking to White moderates, he was not talking to African-American voters at all .... He is not interested in getting the African-American vote which has been a real problem for Republicans for the last three or four elections. They have not been able to get double digit of black voters since Bob Dole against Bill Clinton ... in 1996. It's because Republicans are not using proper strategy, not because they have the wrong policies."

Jason Johnson, a professor of political science at Hiram University

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ROMNEY'S NAACP ADDRESS

  • Mitt Romney addressed the NAACP annual convention in Houston
  • Romney to NAACP: Black community has been hardest hit by the economy
  • Romney: I'll seek to improve the quality of life for all Americans
  • Romney booed by NAACP after vowing to repeal health care legislation
  • Romney: We have to make our case to every voter
  • Romney said he'll make his campaign about helping the middle class
  • Romney: 42 per cent of black students are in our worst-performing schools
  • Romney described education as the "civil rights issue of our era"
  • The Republican Party has traditionally struggled to attract black voters

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