HOUSTON (AP) — The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People says its newest battle is really an old one.
This year's NAACP national convention, which kicks off this weekend in Houston, is focusing on voter participation and the civil rights organization's efforts to fight what it sees as restrictive voting laws that have been passed by various states the last few years.
Between 6,000 and 7,000 members are expected to attend the group's 103rd convention. Vice President Joe Biden, Attorney General Eric Holder and Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, are among the scheduled speakers.
The theme of the convention, which starts Saturday and runs through July 12, is "NAACP: Your Power, Your Decision – Vote." NAACP officials said their main priority this year is making sure that everyone, regardless of race, creed or economic status, will have the right to vote during this fall's elections.
Since 2010, at least 10 states, including Texas, have passed laws requiring people to show a government-issued photo identification card when they go to the polls.
Supporters of such laws have said showing an ID will prevent voter fraud. But opponents say requiring an ID could suppress voter turnout among poor, elderly and minority voters who are less likely to have a driver's license or passport.
Leon Russell, vice chairman of the NAACP's national board of directors, compared the recent voting laws to poll taxes or literacy tests from the 19th century that disenfranchised black voters.
"The effort to suppress the vote is not a new thing. It's something that's been around," he said during a news conference Friday. "What we have seen in the last two years though is the most egregious effort to compound and collect every single method that anybody could think of that would discourage someone to vote and put it into a piece of legislation and inflict them on our communities."
Russell said his organization's efforts are not partisan. Voter ID laws are often passed by Republicans and opposed by Democrats.
University of Houston history professor Tyrone Tillery said the issue of battling voter ID laws is one that fits with the NAACP's history of helping disenfranchised voters.
"It plays to their strengths," said Tillery, who specializes in 20th century African-American history and was a former NAACP director in Detroit in 1989.
Russell said the NAACP is focused on working with other civil rights groups in the Hispanic, Asian and gay and lesbian communities.
"We can't just work on behalf of one segment of the population," he said. "Our focus will be the black community. But we can't create anything that impacts only the black community. Our 103-year history shows that when we get legislation adopted, it is policy that has impacted all Americans. That continues to be our purpose."
Other issues NAACP officials plan to discuss at the convention include the federal health care law that was upheld last month by the U.S. Supreme Court and efforts to repeal stand-your-ground laws around the country in the wake of the February fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin. George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, is citing Florida's stand-your-ground law in his defense in the teenager's death.
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This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (11/26-12/2)
30 photos Launch gallery
1. Little Legend and Puddy 😍😍😍😍
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2. "You on point Phife?" "all the time,Tip". 💥 #bannedfromnormal
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3. Vegan! The Impossible burger at Crossroads
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4. Lawrence #BeforeandAfterEpisodes 1-4: 184lbs 13% body fatEpisode 8: 196lbs 8% body fat S/O @coachdaveboxing with the works outs and @kildareriordan with the nutrition
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5. Jus haaaanngin out
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6. Meanwhile back at home in Atlanta GA someone mad they not on the 🛳. 😳
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7. No limits... Photo cred: Chris Bridges @ludacris
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8. new new
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9. Apparently my 260lbs is too much for the actual vines in the Hawaiian jungles to hold me without breaking and me falling hundreds of feet. So for safety purposes, I'm forced to swing thru #Jumanjj on wires strong enough to hold 12 adult buffaloes and 1 adult Rock. #OnSet #Jumanji #IronicallyIEatBuffaloDailyForLunch #MoreManThanNatureKnowsWhatToDoWith
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10. hey ma! 🎎#wcw 💙
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11. Surprise visit to our factories!!! #GoodAmerican #USA
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13. Peachy Keen 🔥✨⚡️
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14. If this don't look thankful I don't know what does. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. #UltraBlessed #24kMagic #SweetPotatoFly
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15. Late nights @nbcmarlon with the writers... we in here!!!
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16. There goes my baaaaaaaaabbbbyyyyy #QueenKingMagic!!! We're up to something! Ira BIG!!! Stay out our buisness -
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17. You want to win every game you play but when you come home to these faces... who cares. #ILoveYouGirls best part of my day, everyday!
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18. Steady,steady..... full size jenga.. "I got this one "???? Or do I ?
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19. Cornrows kind of day 😉@dontaysavoy2 you convinced me and I love. ❤️️
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20. #BrotherlyLove #tbt
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22. #basel #TeamLOVE @kingcombs
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23. Just introduced a special screening of @directher 's groundbreaking (must see) documentary @13thfilm with my brother @themichaelealy | @unitedblackout #blackoutblackfriday
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24. Me & Vanessa Williams giving #DuckLips #Pose on the set of #DaytimeDivas @vh1 - Coming Soon to a tv near you. Lol. - My make up done by @makeupsurgeon
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25. This picture just makes me wanna praise the Lord, you hear me!!!!!! Yes Lord brotha #TEDDYCAMPBELL What a #man !!! You are everything right on this picture husband ......... #gorgeous #stylish #classy #strong #masculine #king #sexy #debonair #gentlemenstyle And that #bible in your hand just seals the deal for me (probably cause i know that, that is what helped you become just as amazing as you look😘). While my heart and mind experiences the goodness of God at #church on Sundays, my eyes experiences the goodness of Teddy😍. Amen somebody🙌🏽. "Bless the Lord oh my soul and all that is within me bless his holy name" #myman #myhusband #goodman #blackman #dapperman #godlyman #goodfather #mybestfriend
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26. Yesterday was my mama's 53rd birthday!!!!! Got to celebrate with her all day. If this is what I have to look forward to I can't wait. Looking like a soft bucket a cocoa butter. Yaaaaaaaaaas! 😍😍😍 love you mommy!
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27. "Shout out to @PureAtlanta for getting the family right"....I'm loving this jogger. 😍😍
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28. This pic warms my heart ❤️ #myLogiebeans and aunt aunt umba @itowandabraxton 😘
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29. You will always be my baby😜. #HappyBirthdayReginae #mybaby18
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30. GC "Gods Child" Red on Red SweatSuit available now at www.MonicaApparel.com ... Take Your Crown wherever you go!! I'm pictured in a Medium... Go to the site now for other options ... cc: @trukernell
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