December 7th, 2011
03:42 PM ET

NAACP: Restrictive laws 'assault' Americans' voting rights

Editor's Note: In America is producing a documentary, airing in July, which looks at whether a flurry of new state laws are designed to suppress votes, or protect against voting fraud.

By Stephanie Siek, CNN

(CNN) – The voting rights of minorities, students, the poor, the elderly and the disabled are threatened by a concerted campaign to restrict access to the polls,  according to a report released by the NAACP and NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

“Defending Democracy: Confronting Modern Barriers to Voting Rights in America” states that Americans “are experiencing an assault on voting rights that is historic, both in terms of its scope and intensity.”

In 2011, 14 states passed laws that restrict the voting or voter registration process in ways that disproportionately impact minorities, according to the report released Monday. The states are Florida, Texas, Maine, Ohio, Wisconsin, Alabama, Kansas, Tennessee, Iowa, Georgia, West Virginia, Mississippi, Rhode Island and South Carolina. "Dozens” of other laws have been proposed around the country.

The measures aren't discriminatory in nature – they don't explicitly restrict voting access of African-Americans or Latinos, for example. But minorities, students, the poor, the elderly and the disabled, they are more likely to be negatively affected. These groups are more likely to live in poverty and change addresses often. Many don't have access to personal identity documents such as birth certificates. Many live without a driver’s licenses or reliable transportation, or have had their voting rights removed due to felony convictions.

Among the report’s findings:

  • Eight states have enacted laws that require a state or federal photo ID in order to vote. The stated intention was to reduce voter fraud caused by someone impersonating another voter, but such cases are very rare, the report says. The report cited a League of Women Voters of Ohio survey that found just four instances of voter fraud out of 9 million votes cast in 2002 and 2004.
  • In five states - Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin - bills including such voter ID requirements were sponsored by legislators who are members of the American Legislative Exchange Council – a conservative think tank with annual conferences that include hundreds of lawmakers, private business leaders and lobbyists. “Defending Democracy” says these proposals bear clear resemblances to model legislation drafted by the council.
  • The restrictions increased after one of the most diverse election turnouts in U.S.history. The 2008 election saw double-digit increases in the percentage of African-American voters - 15.1% more than in 2004 - and Latino voters –28.4% more than in 2004.
  • States that showed some of the greatest increases in turnout and minority population growth, including Texas, South Carolina, Florida and Ohio, are among those that passed laws to restrict voting access in 2011.

“Instead of adopting democracy-expanding principles, several states are seeking to constrict the democratic process for the very voters who turned out in historic numbers in 2008,” said Ryan P. Haygood, an NAACP Legal Defense Fund attorney who worked on the report.

On Saturday, International Human Rights Day, the NAACP and other groups will lead a march to United Nations Headquarters in New York City from the Manhattan offices of David and Charles Koch, the industrialist brothers who donate to conservative groups that support voter ID laws, Haygood said.

The report calls the laws “coordinated efforts to suppress the growing voting strength of communities of color, the poor, the elderly, the disabled, and the young. It says the laws are part of a historical cycle of expanding rights for minorities, especially blacks, followed by attempts to restrict those rights. As an example, it cites the days of poll taxes and literacy tests that followed the passage of the 15th amendment, which gave former slaves the right to vote.

Keesha Gaskins, senior counsel for the Democracy Program at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, said the legislation could have an impact on the outcome of the 2012 elections. Gaskins was not involved with the NAACP report, but researches voter rights issues.

Of the 270 electoral votes needed to elect the next president, 193 are in states that passed laws on voting, voter registration, third-party voter registration drives, poll worker qualifications, re-enfranchisement of nonviolent felons, photo ID requirements, or who eliminated or reduced the days available for early and absentee voting, Gaskins said.

The people affected by the restrictions are mostly groups that tend to vote for Democratic candidates, and turnout among them could be reduced due to the voting restrictions, Gaskins said.

Hans von Spakovsky, manager of the Civil Justice Reform Initiative at the conservative Heritage Foundation, rejected the premise of the report, saying that there was no unbiased evidence that the laws it describes would disenfranchise voters. He added that most of the laws were supported by a broad majority of voters in the states where they had been passed.

“I think it’s frankly kind of a ridiculous report,” von Spakovsky said, "because all the claims it makes are the same kind of predictions and claims made by the Brennan Center for years now, all of which have been proven untrue.”

In "Without Proof: The Unpersuasive Case Against Voter Identification," von Spakovsky refuted the findings of a 2006 Brennan Center survey which claimed similar findings as the NAACP report - namely, that millions of voters were at risk of disenfranchisement because they either didn't have government-issued photo ID or couldn't access the documents needed to obtain it. He said the "dubious" methodology of the survey canceled out its results.

"Based entirely on one survey of only 987 'voting age American citizens,' the [Brennan Center] report contains no information on how the survey determined whether a respondent was actually an American citizen. The survey could have included illegal and legal aliens, two categories of individuals that are not allowed to vote," von Spakovsky wrote.

In Georgia, which has one of the oldest and strictest laws regarding what voters must present to prove eligibility, turnout among African-American voters had increased in 2008, four years after the voter ID law was passed, von Spakovsky said.

The 2008 election was also prefaced by a massive get-out-the-vote campaign within the African-American community, and it was the first election in U.S.history in which a nonwhite candidate - Barack Obama - was a party nominee.

In the end, Gaskins said, the motivation behind the laws – be it prevention of fraud or intentional discrimination – isn’t what matters to the next election.

“Does it matter whether the ultimate intention was to disenfranchise millions of minority voters, or does it matter that it did?” Gaskins asked. “At some point, it is no longer a solution when you’re impacting so many American citizens.”

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Filed under: Age • Black in America • Disabilities • Ethnicity • History • How we live • Latino in America • Politics • Race • Social justice
soundoff (324 Responses)
  1. Stormfront

    Why don't we just boot out the illegals and then we don't have to worry about it?

    December 28, 2011 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
  2. awdam

    If the bla ck panthers can post people with baseball bats outside the voting polls ,then I think there needs to be kkk members out in force at the voting booths too!!

    December 10, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • csa

      lol i totally agree , i think these damn illegals and other minorities need to be put back in their place, like it always has been.

      December 29, 2011 at 9:15 am | Report abuse |
  3. Tyhouston

    Sorry as a black man, i see NOTHING stopping me from voting.

    What is this BS about always crying racist when someone tells your lazy rear to just register and show a ID everyone else has to do it.

    What makes your RACIST lazy self so special your black skin gives you the right to dodge the rules?

    Even whining bout your skin, my skin don't stop me from signing a paper and showing my license. You just to Da mn lazy.

    December 10, 2011 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
    • csa

      wow im glad i finally heard the truth. just because your black docent mean you can say people are racist against you when you get arrested or have laws like this.

      December 29, 2011 at 9:17 am | Report abuse |
  4. lwr

    Smokes, booze and dope, but can't put out $25 for an ID? I don't believe it.

    December 9, 2011 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
  5. Jewels

    Furthermore people faced more adversity back during the civil rights movement than today and you mean to tell me after all the beatings, marchs, protest and everything folks went through then, getting an I'd is the worst of them all and NOW there's an assault???? What rubbish. That's so dumb #SMH

    December 8, 2011 at 7:58 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jewels

    This is stupid and I'm a Black woman. You need identification for just about everything, bank accounts, hell even to cash a check at anywhere so why is it now prejudice to prove you have the right to vote??? Its been like that for years.......this is beyond dumb. And convicts or felons that's a whole other discussion that shouldn't of been even grouped with everything else.

    December 8, 2011 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
  7. WolfAK

    How about someone explain the logic behind separate voting sheets? On polling day, you show up and log in at your precinct.. and they give you a voting sheet to fill out. One if you are registered republican, and one for 'everything else'. if this doesn't happen in your district, or you never noticed, take a look. It is the case in my district.

    December 8, 2011 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Republicans are against freedom

    Republicans cannot win a fair election nor will they ever be honest about what they stand for either.

    December 8, 2011 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
  9. DRC

    In this day and age everyone should have some kind of ID and to say you can not is BS. The cost is not prohibitive. Seen enough of the so called poor etc in the supermarket buying cigarettes and steak. If they want to vote get a simple ID.

    December 8, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  10. kayode oliyide

    Providing an ID before voting that shows the voting process is reliable and the result will be accepted without bias. voting fraud will also be reduced.

    December 8, 2011 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Sarah Washington

    I agree with this article because the number of people voting every year in states with a high minority,disabled,and elderly population is practically decreasing and most the time the people fit the demographics of the restrictions....

    December 8, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
  12. TM

    It is reasonable to require an ID to vote. We have porous borders and there are many aliens in the US, both legal and illegal. Every other country protects their borders and require IDs. I am sure the poor will be provided with identification. They have to have IDs to collect Welfare and SS. There could be the added dipped purple finger, so US citizen travelers and students can vote anywhere in the US on voting days.

    December 8, 2011 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
  13. american patriot

    The NAACP is always trying to target every thing for whats not up their ally ,you need id to indentify yourself as an american to seperate us from illegals to forieners ,if you were not born here in the united states then you should not have the right to vote,example like non americans cant run for president ,those who were not born of this land , this should apply to people for voting as well ,were not the perfect country but neither are the any other countries ,but reality we have more freedom then other countries have ,read the news naacp should look to asia or middle east and be happy they have the
    freedom to speak, protest about their problem and squables other countries you arested beaten prison or executed or flogged.i thought the naacp was for afro americans not illegal imigrant see i served my country maybe you should serve your country to vote in military services ,my sister n law is a phillipino who served her country to be come an american 1 she is a female 2 shes a minority not born of this land, but served to be an american.Naacp should look at the homless and the hungry and uneducated and do something about that ,rather then looking for any thing out of the news to cry about

    December 8, 2011 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
  14. kurtinco

    Fees for IDs or drivers licenses and birth certificates coupled with a restricted voter registration period amounts to a poll tax, period. All those fees add up, too. In Florida alone it can cost nearly $200. I make a decent living, but even I would have a difficult time absorbing that kind of cost just to vote. It really is sad how many people think this is ok. Why are American's becoming increasingly nasty to each other? All I can say is Goss Darn republican racist, working-class haters. I wish they would all go to H E L L!!!!!

    December 8, 2011 at 10:10 am | Report abuse |
    • angela

      How do you arrive at $200??? I'm in FL, I had my wallet stolen (by an illegal immigrant in the grocery store, no less), and it cost me less than forty bucks to replace my state ID card, my SS card, and my FL birth record card, all of which I had in my wallet at the time, with my voter registration card. When I got my new ID, I signed up to have my new voter registration card sent to my home for free, and it arrived promptly.
      Facts could have strengthened your case, but you chose hyperbolic exaggeration, so you look like a silly liar. $200, my behind.
      If people cannot be bothered to follow very simple rules to obtain a voter registration card, tough. You don't need ID and a bc merely to vote, but to function as a citizen of voting age. If you're not a citizen, you don't vote. Period.

      December 8, 2011 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
  15. FACT

    In over 6,500 years of recorded history, Africans' buildings have never progressed. The common mud and straw hut is still widely used. Beavers, muskrats, mice, birds, and many other creatures are capable of building better structures in Africa than blacks.

    December 8, 2011 at 10:10 am | Report abuse |
    • kurtinco

      Where the hell did that come from? looks like you need to find another blog. I'd like to pack you up with my "straw and mud". Idiot.

      December 8, 2011 at 10:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Queen

      So people that are technologically advanced are better people than those who live a simple life?
      The most important thing in life is to have family and food and natural resources. In the US, we are technologically advanced, yes, we also have violence, greed, hate and clinical depression.

      December 11, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
  16. Frank

    The reason China owns us is because china does not have any blacks.

    December 8, 2011 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
  17. Joe Sixpack

    You have to show a photo ID to vote? That's it?

    December 8, 2011 at 10:02 am | Report abuse |
  18. Alger Heights Dave

    It's totally reasonable to expect voters to produce proof of who they are at the polls or to get registered as a voter. Honestly, many folks feel it should go well beyond that. Way too many folks vote who have no understanding of the issues. That should be a crime (and at the very least is very poor judgement), but there's no good way to figure out who understands the issues and who doesn't (unfortunately). In my opinion, a simple way to make sure we had a more educated electorate would be to only allow high school graduates (or GED recipients) to vote. At least then you have a 'bar' or low point for what you expect of voters. That would probably also encourage more folks to get that diploma (though not many more). If you don't care enough or have enough desire to get your high school diploma (or GED), why should we allow you to vote? That's a free gift of the American people (public education through high school) – if you don't take advantage of it – not our problem.

    December 8, 2011 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Chrissy333

      You are extremely elitist. Voting is a right, not a gift from the "educated elite". Poor people have just as much say as anyone else. I know that bothers you, but that is why this is still a democracy (somewhat).

      December 8, 2011 at 10:07 am | Report abuse |
    • WolfAK

      Your argument -almost- makes sense, except that it -is- a right. On top of that, how many "educated" voters know who and what they are voting for? So many vote for a single, hot button reason, such as gun control, religion, abortion, "that's my party", or "i like his face".. how in the world can anyone set a "bar" for that? I wish you could.

      It would be nice to have all the candidates' information listed, like voting record or bullet-list of agenda, available to remind people what -else- their choice believes in.

      I have educated, intelligent friends who are beyond mis-informed about candidates policies and specifics of recent legislation... they get this way from talking heads, babble at work, word of mouth spread from one mal-informed individual to the next, lack of responsible journalism and a lack of official posted information. When you explain the very basic, printed, blatant wording of a law to someone, and they disagree and dismiss that in lieu of "what they heard" it speaks volumes.

      December 8, 2011 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
  19. Mike

    We shoulda picked that cotton ourselves.

    December 8, 2011 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
  20. 3rdEyeOpened

    What I don't understand is...... Are the brainstorming minds of our leaders going down the drain? There has been fraud in our voting system since it began. So our leaders are just now coming up with this primitive solution to allegedly combat fraud? This should have been (and most likely was) proposed over 30+ years ago when pictures were added to the state ID's, and well before illegal immigration became an issue. But using common sense, one could clearly see that there is a hidden agenda behind the " out of the blue" state ID enforcement that has surfaced.

    The other problem I have is the recent proposed law aimed at our college students. The GOP would like to make it so that all college students must register to vote in their home districts, and not at the college in which many of them reside. All because of the stats which showed the majority of college students living out of state voting for Obama in 2008.

    December 8, 2011 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Chrissy333

      Very good point

      December 8, 2011 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
  21. Stanley Clinton

    All a set-up, all a fraud, after they wipe the minorities from voting, middle and upper class are next,then years from now your voice will not be heard.All you who support these sociopaths will regret it with with the lives of your unborn . Wake up you morons and realize that the government forces & supports ignorance, corruption, & scandal, that basically sums up the whole agenda. How is it you change laws just so minorities can't vote such as black, hispanic right when the next election is at our heels. None of the GOP candidates are hopeful anyway, America is doomed,and that includes the people who arelocated there.

    December 8, 2011 at 9:48 am | Report abuse |
    • therealhawkman

      Look around you. Do you really believe your voice is heard now? Do you really believe your vote means anything to those already allegedly representing us at local, county, state, federal levels? Then you, my poor delusional friend, are the one that needs to wake up and smell the stench of political fraud across this nation.

      December 8, 2011 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
    • tcp

      The ONLY people this proposal prevents from voting are the people without an ID to prove they are eligible to vote. It has exactly ZERO to do with race...

      December 8, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  22. Derik

    The NAACP are like the boy who cried wolf. After years and years of false accusations, does anyone take them serious?

    December 8, 2011 at 9:48 am | Report abuse |
  23. Jim

    It's amazing that anyone would consider it a problem to have to have a photo ID - you need one to cash a check, buy liquour and such, etc. So, these people probably have one. Frankly, if they don't have one, they should get one. If they DO have one and don't care enough to bring it with them to help decide the fate of the free world, I'd rather they not vote anyway.

    December 8, 2011 at 9:48 am | Report abuse |
  24. su3385

    Gee! I didn't know proper valid ID was racist! I have had a Driver's License since I was 16, that was before they invented the non-driving State ID cards. The NAACP should be helping "their" people meet this rather low standard of normalcy, instead of whining and pointing fingers just to get publicity.

    December 8, 2011 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
  25. AmericaFail

    So let me get this straight, all this crying is about requiring a valid photo ID to vote? Are you kidding? It is illegal to be outside in America without a valid ID. Look up federal laws, you must carry valid Identification on you at all times. This is simply the most racist organization in the United States trying to make it easier for people who legally aren't allow to vote, to do just that. This is America. Not a 3rd world country (like the one directly south of us) where rules do not apply. If you want to live in a civilized world follow the rules and get an Identification card like you are legally required to do. If you don't like it LEAVE AMERICA.... it doesn't belong to you.

    December 8, 2011 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
    • kurtinco

      So, now everyone is "required" to carry ID. We've turned into a "show me your papers" state now? I just did a little research into the costs of getting a drivers license in Florida. If you're poor or old and have moved around a lot, the cost can be nearly $200. Really? How? The license fee, the fee for getting a certified copy of your birth certificate, the fee for mailing the damn certificate for crying out loud. But that's not all. You've got to prove you live somewhere. And if you are poor and have bad credit, chances are you have trouble getting utilities in your name or a vehicle registration. I mean, let's face it. All this crap you have to do in Florida alone is a real hassle for the poor and they still might not be able to prove residency even when they try. That is disenfranchisement. That is what we are talking about. So please pull your head out of your backside and think for a little while the difficulties faced by our fellow citizens that can't just drop a credit card down every time they want something.

      December 8, 2011 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
      • tcp

        Are you intentionally trying to mislead. All you need is a birth certificate (you should ALREADY have this), proof of SS # (card, paystub, W2, 1099...) which you should already have, and a copy of a lease, mortgage, utility, or any of about 20 other items)...which you should ALREADY HAVE! And a non driving ID costs 25 bucks..NOT "nearly 200"...

        December 8, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • D

      And what makes it belong to you? Because you were born here? You should be embarrassed for the statement you just made. You're a fool. Read the article again. It's just about minorities–> race. Its about people who've been voting for YEARS may now be at risk for not being able to vote. Your parents/grandparrents cant vote anymore because they cant optian a photo id... Your gonna tell them oh well and to go somewhere where id isnt required to vote?

      December 8, 2011 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
  26. joe

    I've got a right to have my vote count and not get cancelled out by fraudulent votes.

    December 8, 2011 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
  27. Jungg

    Another example of blame-shifting. The law is in no way discriminatory. The only reason that it affects minorities more often is because of failings within these communities that make the law apply to them more often. Go ahead and blame the courts, while you're at it, for disproportionately prosecuting minorities. Heaven forbid that you make the logical leap that the people THEMSELVES put themselves in a position to be prosecuted by virtue of their actions. The NAACP is so out of touch with real fairness and equality it's sickening.

    December 8, 2011 at 9:38 am | Report abuse |
    • AmericaFail

      Courts don't discriminate against minorities, minorities commit more crimes. It's a fact.

      December 8, 2011 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
    • DonaldH

      Absolutely correct. If a person cannot prove that they have the right to vote, then those persons have NO RIGHT TO VOTE!. Legal ID is not that difficult to obtain. The question is: Are you a citizen with voting rights? PROVE IT!

      December 8, 2011 at 9:44 am | Report abuse |
  28. Andrew

    If I was a minority I would take offense to this. To have CNN or Maxin Waters say I don't even have enough capability to get an ID. I guess their not smart enough to vote. This is ridiculous. SEEMS LIKE EVERYTHING IS DISCRIMINATION TO THEM. I'm starting to thing that the Civil Rights movement was a bad idea. They equate things like having to have an ID to the racism from the past. Left wingers are getting whiny.

    December 8, 2011 at 9:36 am | Report abuse |
  29. Sean

    Getting an ID is pretty basic stuff for an adult. You need one for almost everything. You want a beer, show your ID. You want to vote show your ID.


    December 8, 2011 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
  30. NAAWP

    2008 – ACORN... 2012 – THE BRAZIL NUT

    December 8, 2011 at 9:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      OMG! This country has gone crazy!! Getting a freaking ID is too much of a hardship? How do you go through life without an ID? If a person doesn't have it together enough to even have some for of identification do you really think they have any idea at all what they're voting for? Other than a free check from the government? It is pathetic weakness of this country that requiring an ID to vote is somehow too much of a burdon. OMG!

      December 8, 2011 at 9:44 am | Report abuse |
  31. user55

    Obviously, all of you who disagree with the point of this article have never tried to get a state ID for a homeless person. It is very difficult!!! It is extremely confusing and a hardship for someone not familiar with "the system".

    Most of the time you have to drive somewhere to get the birth certificate or mail in the correct form to the correct county. Every state or county has different laws. There are plenty of people out there who did not grow up in loving homes and have no idea what hospital they were born at. Then you have to take both the birth certificate and social security card to the DMV. If you don't have the SS card, you can still get it, but it takes an additional step of getting first a copy of birth certificate. Next going to SS office for a "print out" of SS card number. Next going to DMV to get ID. To get the real SS card, you must then return to the SS office with both the new ID and birth certificate. You must also have proof of residency in Ohio for an ID card. It could take all day. This occurred in Ohio, but I have also helped people
    who were born in other states.

    Just because someone is homeless does that mean we automatically take away their right to vote? NO

    December 8, 2011 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |
    • therealhawkman

      Are illegals considered homeless since they have no legal address because they are here illegally? Sorry, but please explain how a homeless person would get to the voting booth if they are homeless? Same as how they would get to the State ID section? Same as they would/could get to where they needed to go to get some record to prove they are here legally? Same as when homeless people are Van Pooled to the voting booths by local activists? If a homeless person really, really wanted to be involved in the voting process, guess what.........they would find a way. Period.

      December 8, 2011 at 9:39 am | Report abuse |
    • AmericaFail

      To get a job in America you must have a valid ID and a Social Security card. Sorry but if you aren't eligible for employment you don't deserve to vote.

      December 8, 2011 at 9:44 am | Report abuse |
      • D

        Ok, so disabled vets shouldnt vote? People who get in accidents shouldn't vote because they're disability wont let them? You're a clown. Someone should take away your right to vote for being stupid.

        December 8, 2011 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
  32. JPR1970

    Republican states are trying to pass strict voting laws to address a crime that does not exist. They are well aware that the lower the voter turnout, the better their chances are. This is a matter of strategy, not law enforcement.

    If you are not angry for a valid reason, you are just being manipulated!

    December 8, 2011 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |
    • therealhawkman

      "Republican states are trying to pass strict voting laws to address a crime that does not exist. They are well aware that the lower the voter turnout, the better their chances are. This is a matter of strategy, not law enforcement. If you are not angry for a valid reason, you are just being manipulated!"
      Oh my, how quickly you forget that it was the Democratic south that had, until forced otherwise, the most restrictive voter registration policies in America. How about getting off the Party Line bs and sticking to the issue of whether voter ID is viable, valid, and helps with preventing possible voter fraud.

      December 8, 2011 at 10:10 am | Report abuse |
      • Sean

        Riddle me this batman. You have to have an ID to cash that gubment check, you also need an ID to buy a beer. So why of why wouldn’t you need an ID to VOTE!?

        December 8, 2011 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
      • therealhawkman

        @ SEAN: Are you directing your comment to me or user55? Not exactly clear. Just wondering.

        December 8, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
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