“This year, we will be running the strongest voter protection program ever. This will be our most aggressive push, and we have never done anything on this scale before because the attacks that we are seeing on the right to vote are unprecedented,” Baker said, calling voter ID laws passed in several states “a modern-day version of a poll tax and a new form of Jim Crow.”
The announcement comes less than a week after the AFL-CIO suffered a huge defeat in Wisonsin, where Gov. Scott Walker (R) surivived the union-led recall against him.
The AFL-CIO plans to partner in voter-protection efforts with groups like the NAACP, the National Council of La Raza, Generational Alliance and the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement.
“In the past year, we have seen more states pass more laws pushing more voters out of the ballot box than we have seen in a 12-month period in the past century,” said NAACP President Benjamin Jealous.
Voter ID laws have either been proposed or passed in the six swing states that have grabbed the AFL-CIO’s attention. Baker also said there’s “strong union density” in those states, meaning the labor federation could reach more of its members there.
“So when you combine for us our concern about the voter suppression laws introduced in the majority of states we are focusing on and where are members are, it made perfect sense for that to be our focus. As I said, ideally, we are looking at all 50 states, but you can’t go everywhere, and these are the states where we will be focusing our efforts but certainly supporting others who are working in other states, including those in the South,” Baker said.
Many of the demographic groups that could be adversely affected by the voter ID laws tend to vote Democratic.
The labor federation is encouraging people to sign up as polling monitors and poll workers in the six battleground states. Further, it has set up a website, myvotemyright.org, to inform voters of voter registration laws in their states and provide a resource for reporting complaints. In addition, union lawyers will help with poll monitor training and could join with groups in litigation against ID laws.
Florida has recently been of particular concern to liberal groups.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) said on Monday that his state would sue the Department of Homeland Security in its effort to purge ineligible voters from the rolls. The Justice Department had already requested Scott not move forward with the purge, saying it would violate the Voting Rights Act and the National Voter Registration Act.
Jealous of the NAACP said Justice should not back down its standoff with Scott.
“Governor Scott’s defiance of the U.S. Department of Justice is deeply troubling but it’s right in line with his actions so far. He has seemed committed to repeat the sins of 2000 and to turn to clear as many voters off the rolls as possible in black and Latino and poor communities,” Jealous said. “We will continue to encourage the U.S. Department of Justice to be forthright and aggressive in ensuring that he respects the laws of his state and of this country.”
Scott said his determination to remove ineligible voters from Florida's voting rolls is "a no-brainer.”
"We're sitting here trying to watch how we spend our money, pay down our debt, do the right things for the citizens of our state, and the federal government tells us, 'Oh, no, you can't do the right thing for our citizens and we're going to sue you,' " Scott said Tuesday on Fox News. "It doesn't make sense."
— This story was updated at 1:44 p.m.