NAACP official says current voter system is ‘designed to create barriers’

NAACP official Jamal Watkins said Thursday that the current U.S. voting system discourages participation and prevents many Americans from casting a vote. 

"When we start to look at the ways in which laws are constructed, it’s not designed for participation, it’s designed to create barriers,” Watkins, vice president of civic engagement at the NAACP, told Hill.TV in an interview.

Watkins pointed to the rise of stricter voter identification laws in states across the country, which critics say disproportionally hurt minority voters. 

"What we’re seeing is laws like photo ID start to passed, and when you start to see polling places in terms of early vote hours being curtailed, the data shows it actually limits participation. Why would we want to do that in a country that values and prides itself on democracy?” he said.

A total of 34 states across the country now require some sort of identification in order to vote.

Seven states have what are considered the strictest identification requirements. This means in states Georgia and Mississippi, voters have to to present a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license, in order to cast a ballot.

Proponents of voter identification argue that the requirement helps prevent voter fraud.

In 2017, a federal judge ruled for the second time that Texas lawmakers intentionally discriminated against Latino and African-American voters with a strict 2011 voter ID law, and in 2016 a federal court ruled that Wisconsin’s voter ID law was unconstitutional before it was later appealed.

— Tess Bonn