March 7th, 2012
11:17 PM ET

National Urban League report names voting as No. 1 issue for African Americans

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 National Urban League's 2012 State of Black America report said that African-Americans' march toward parity with whites in things like education, health, civic engagement and social justice continues to be a hard, unfinished journey. Released the day after Super Tuesday elections, the report puts special focus on voting rights for African-Americans.

The 2012 Equality Index score put black equality at 71.5%, just 0.1% over that of last year. The report uses a percentage index score that includes hundreds of factors like unemployment rate, median household income, possession of health insurance, high school graduation rates, and proportion of registered voters to the total eligible population, among others. A score of 100% would indicate a measurement in which black people were scoring equally with white people, while a score below 100% indicates categories in which blacks are scoring less. Scores higher than 100% indicate measurements in which blacks are scoring above whites.

Scores for civic engagement dropped the most out of the four categories measured, going from 101.8% in 2011 to 98.3% this year. Civic Engagement measures not only the number of registered voters and percentage of adults who actually voted, but also how many African-Americans participate in volunteer activities, how many are part of a union, how many are employed by the government, and the percentage who sign up for military reserve service.

The league blames the lower civic engagement index score in part on voting laws which it says unfairly restrict voter rights and disproportionately impact African-Americans.  In particular it cites laws which mandate the presentation of photo ID or proof of citizenship in order to vote, and others that limit opportunities for early voting and for voter registration drives. The NAACP expressed similar concerns about such laws in a 2011 report.

Currently, 31 states require some form of ID in order to vote. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 34 states in 2011 alone considered legislation that either created new requirements to show ID at the polls, or placed additional restrictions on what kinds of ID would be accepted.

A 2006 study by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University estimated that up to 25% of African-American citizens of voting age do not have current government issued-photo ID, compared with 8% of white citizens.

The U.S. Department of Justice is challenging a recent South Carolina law, which requires all voters to present a state-issued voter registration card before balloting.  

The league used a town hall meeting held at Howard University on Wednesday night to launch a campaign, “Occupy the Vote to Educate, Employ and Empower,” intended to counter voter restriction measures. The goal is to challenge the laws, but also to educate people about what documents they need in order to vote, and increase registration rates among African-Americans.

“We must occupy the vote so we have a voice about the future of this nation,” league president Marc Morial told the audience. “Not now and not on our watch are we going to allow a nation, which spends a trillion dollars to defend democracy abroad, erect fences and barriers here at home.”

Although the biggest change in the 2012 index was in civic engagement, the greatest inequalities were still counted in the categories of economics (an index score of 56.3%, 0.3% less than 2011) and social justice (56.8%, 1.2% lower than in 2011).  But these were offset slightly in the overall index score by small gains in the scores for health (which at 76.5%, rose 1.5% over the previous year) and education (which increased by 0.7% to 79.7%).

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Filed under: Black in America • Discrimination • Economy • Education • Health • How we live • Race • Social justice
soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. kiss

    It is not hard to get an picture I.D. Did anybody read about the guy who was able to register his dog, unfortunatly this is the second time this happened.

    March 11, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dduke

      His dog!!?? Well this story is about getting chimps ID so.....

      March 11, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  2. twang

    How do they get welfare without ID?

    March 9, 2012 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tershina

      I'm African American and I will never vote again.......there are too many liars in politics and everything is getting worse!!!!! They are still cutting from public education, health care and the list goes on and on........The media tells us that they need our vote but believe me is doesn't change anything, this country is still in debt in the trillions of dollars and taxes will continue to be raised.........it's getting bad and there is no hope and things will continue to get worse.........

      March 10, 2012 at 6:03 am | Report abuse |
      • John

        We can tell you're black. You don't know how to write properly.

        March 10, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Stlchicago

      twang – "they" I can only guess you're referring to "Black-Americans." What you should do a little fact finding. "they" get welfare the same way the highest population of welfare recipients (white people) get it.

      March 10, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
      • ROFL

        Seriously haha look at those stats again. White people have the hardest time getting any sort of help bahahah. A latino will get 300 in Food Stamps an African American will get 500 and a White Caucasion will get about 150 so yeah.... Totally un eqaul there buddy

        March 12, 2012 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
  3. Jmaine

    I kind of find it hard to believe that some blacks don't have a i.d. I'm black myself and have my own place to live, my own car and currently employed. Somewhere down the line there needs to be some personal responsibility for not having the finer things in life. I grew up broke and my family didn't have any money. That didn't stop me from getting what I wanted without breaking the law. I live out west and you need a ride to get around. Back east is a different , you don't need a car to much to get around. Personal rspnsibility, you either want to be broke and have no motivation or as we say you can keep it movin and get anything you want out of life.

    March 9, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • ROFL

      Amen to that dude. Take responsibilty for your life and quit the whining about not being equal. You can get a job just as easy as the next guy. Pick up and make yourself presentable to the world

      March 12, 2012 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
  4. MarcV

    If these activists groups spent half as much time getting people a legal ID to help their lives rather than complain about voting rules, the problem would be solved. I have a hard time believing that 25% of adult black Americans do not have a photo ID. So they are not driving, do not have a bank account, or have never flown?

    March 8, 2012 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ralph M

      it is pretty simple, id is required to ensure there is no voter fraud. besides, i would hope their #1 concern should be how they are going to support all the kids they keep crapping out with no way to support them. is forced sterilization really wrong ? in certain cultures, it is a cure.

      March 9, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Yepyep6598

    @catwill and scott goto those websites I told Judy to checkout and the same reasoning is true for you two that I gave Judy.

    March 8, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Yepyep6598

    sorry about that Oakspar that last comment was directed at Judy.

    March 8, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
  7. bl4ck0utsUn

    I have an USA issued passport, but I'm scrambling to get my birth certificate, because my PP, liscense and SSC, isn't enough ID in my state for me to register to vote? How many hispanics, and African-Americans don't have a birth certificate? The GOP is banking on many of them to not! Glad this article brings that fact to light! Btw, it cost over $50 for me to get my BC. If you are on Fedral Aide here a family of 4 gets $200 a month... No wonder not many poor here will have a voice!

    March 8, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
  8. scott

    Ok first of all the article was about african americans,just as important yepyep6598 all that you have put up and said is backed up by what facts i might ask the sources for all the talking points that you made just so that info can or not be verified its one thing to say facts but another to make them up or in your case think that without verified proof people should just take your word for it anyone can make charts or graphs on a keyboard but its much better to back it up with the sources and the facts it makes for a better blog.

    March 8, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
  9. catwill

    I am sick and tired of these States resorting to tactics to bypass the Voters Rights Act and return to laws that disenfranchised minorities by asking them to count the jelly beans in a gallon jar, different tactics but similar results. GAWD!

    March 8, 2012 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tore

      I don't think that's as much of an issue as the fact that black people just aren't showing up to the polls. In VA, they had a 2% turnout of the entire population, where the state is 19.4% black as a while. (keep in mind, you don't need to be republican to vote in the VA republican primaries. Everyone should be voting across party lines!)

      March 8, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
  10. catwill

    @ yepye, those are talking points from the GOP/Ts that try to discredit blacks because they prefer a Party of inclusion (DEMS) and not a party of exclusion. Black people vote their interest just like rich people like the GOP/T for their interest. REALLY?

    March 8, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Yepyep6598

      a party of inclusion doesnt mean prosperity everybody that pulls you out of s h y t is not your friend and everyone that s h y t s on you aint your enemy, your problem, you cant identify friend from foe and that's your dilemma. And you can see african-americans are not doing any better. You all still have that slave mentality the whiteman knows best for black people. I shed that thought 15yrs ago and opened my eyes. The white liberal see you as votes that's it there is no real concern for poverty in black communities white liberals have there own agenda. The only difference between a white liberal and a racist is one hides his racism and the other one doesnt. There are alot more rich liberals than conservatives in this country, but I dont see rich white liberals trying to build businesses in poor black neighborhoods THINK ABOUT IT DONT BE A FOOL. I am not a republican or democrat I am an independent neither party owns me I vote for the best candidate.

      March 8, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Judy

    yepye If your black im purple. Obama 2012 Move forward not backward.

    March 8, 2012 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Yepyep6598

      @Judy goto www. statehealthfacts.org and you can to the u.s. census bureau and if you dont believe the facts, well, just keep voting for no progress at some point the I guess black people will wake up. There is no statistical fact and I dont know why black people believe that when those white blue-eyed liberal demons are in control they are going to be kifted out of poverty. Wait a minute, unless you are satisfied with goverment handouts(free stuff) and have no ambitions or aspirations of ever being anything accept a welfare receipent then have it. Im not saying there shouldnt be welfare but when you make it a lifestyle and a solution to all of your woes and shortcomings then it's a whole other issue. To me welfare should be treated as a temporary solution until you can get on your feet. Voting is not the problem, who we are voting for is the problem.

      March 8, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Yepyep6598

    Love these articles at some point I hope african-americans will see through the white liberal ideology B U L L S H Y T I as a blackman got off that liberal democratic plantation 15 years ago and saw through liberal ideology which doesnt help african-americans. READ THE ARTICLES AND RESEARCH THE FACTS BEFORE YOU COME TO A CONCLUSION AND SEE FOR YOURSELF LOOK AROUND YOU, AND ASK, WHAT HAVE THE DEMOCRACTS REALLY DONE FOR AFRICAN-AMERICANS BESIDE GOVERMENT HANDOUTS AND WE ARE STILL IN POVERTY.
    Dems vote with their emotions not their brains.

    Why is it that every Democratic run city has the highest crime rates??

    For example, Detroit, whose mayor has been indicted on felony charges, hasn't elected a Republican mayor since 1961. Buffalo has been even more stubborn. It started putting a Democrat in office back in 1954, and it hasn't stopped since.

    Unfortunately, those two cities may be alone at the top of the poverty rate list, but they're not alone in their love for Democrats. Cincinnati, Ohio (third on the poverty rate list), hasn't had a Republican mayor since 1984. Cleveland, Ohio (fourth on the list), has been led by a Democrat since 1989. St. Louis, Missouri (sixth), hasn't had a Republican since 1949, Milwaukee, Wisconsin (eighth), since 1908, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (ninth), since 1952 and Newark, New Jersey (10th), since 1907.

    The only two cities in the top 10 that I didn't mention (Miami, Florida, and El Paso, Texas) haven't had Republicans in office either - just Democrats, independents or nonpartisans.

    Over the past 50 years, the eight cities listed above have had Republican leadership for a combined 36 years. The rest of the time - a combined 364 years - they've been led by Democrats.

    Five of the 10 cities with the highest poverty rates (Detroit, Buffalo, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Newark) have had a Democratic stranglehold since at least 1961: more than 45 years. Two of the cities (Milwaukee and Newark) have been electing Democrats since the first Model T rolled off the assembly line in 1908.

    Two cities, 100 years, all Democrats.

    If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, the asylums in those cities must be as full as the soup kitchens.


    We've talked a lot about "change" in this country recently, but there's a much more important catchphrase that we've neglected: "All politics is local." Maybe instead of focusing so much on who we put in charge of our country, we should focus more on who we put in charge of our cities.

    Oh, and before I forget. The hateful politician who suggested that we should be "driving" or "leading" the poor out of poverty? It was Benjamin Franklin.

    Good thing he never tried to run for mayor of Newark
    What do the top ten cities

    (over 250,000) with the highest

    poverty rate all have in common?

    Detroit, MI (1st on the poverty rate list) hasn't elected a Republican mayor since 1961.

    Buffalo , NY (2nd) hasn't elected a Republican mayor since 1954.

    Cincinnati , OH (3rd) hasn't elected a Republican mayor since 1984.

    Cleveland , OH (4th) hasn't elected a Republican mayor since 1989.

    Miami , FL (5th) has never had a Republican mayor.

    St. Louis , MO (6th) hasn't elected a Republican mayor since 1949.

    El Paso , TX (7th) has never had a Republican mayor.

    Milwaukee , WI (8th) hasn't elected a Republican mayor since 1908.

    Philadelphia , PA (9th) hasn't elected a Republican mayor since 1952.

    Newark , NJ (10th) hasn't elected a Republican mayor since 1907.

    Einstein once said, 'The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.'

    It is the poor who habitually elect Democrats
    yet they are still POOR!

    "You cannot help the poor
    by destroying the rich.

    You cannot strengthen the weak
    by weakening the strong.
    You cannot bring about prosperity
    by discouraging thrift.

    You cannot lift the wage earner up
    by pulling the wage payer down.

    You cannot further the brotherhood of man
    by inciting class hatred.

    You cannot build character and courage
    by taking away people's initiative and independence.

    You cannot help people permanently
    by doing for them,
    what they could and
    should do for themselves."

    Abraham Lincoln

    March 8, 2012 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Oakspar

      Well, if you are the "party of the poor" and the "party of the disenfranchised" and the other party is the "party of the small buisness" and the "party of the successful" then what is their incentive to improve the conditions of those who vote for them.

      Would your dentist sell you a pill that would make your teeth strong and clean for life? Would you doctor sell you a pill that would make you health forever? If democrates made all the poor people rich, them would not those people change priorities and parties (with some exception, of course)?

      If you want to be rich, then you should vote for the party whose goal is the increase in the number of rich people voting for them. If you want to be poor, then you should vote for the party whose goal is the increase in the number of poor people voting for them.

      March 8, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
      • catwill

        2 Oakspar, well said.

        March 8, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
      • Yepyep6598

        @Oakspar let me give you a little background on me of why I say the things I say. I grew up very poor me and my 4 siblings grew up in the hood we didnt get new clothes we wore handme downs of clothes from our cousins. There were times we didnt have food people had to bring us food. We didnt have transportation you either walked, found bicycle parts to make a bike or bummed a ride from someone. Either the lights were turned off, gas, or water but one would be turned off. No central heat in the winter only small gas heaters and the kitchen stove, no air condition in the summer that's insane here in Texas only a straw air conditioner that you had to wet the straws from the outside to keep it cool in a rat and roach infested duplex. In this duplex, if the neighbors toilet above us overflowed the nasty water would drip in the kitchen, when we didnt have money to wash clothes go grab a bar of soap or dish washing liquid, to dry your clothes hang your clothes on the railing of the porch. Add in a alcoholic mother who didnt work and no father, but my mother had a boyfriend who did help when they were on speaking basis. I was 14 years old with my first summer job I paid the rent, utilities, and groceries because I was the only one working in the house my other siblings were not old enough to work. I took care of my family without goverment handouts, and it was a hell of alot harder then. Graduated from highschool went to the Air Force Reserve after 3yrs in the Air Force transferred to active duty army enlisted five years. Came out of the Army went to college and earned my B.A. in Telecommunications. So you see I refused to buy into the bs voting s h y t and the victimization ideology by white liberals and those who are still on the plantation. If I can do it and Im not a genius or some lucky soul, just a hard determined blackman in america thet refused to give in or give up. STOP WHINING ANd GET YOUR A Z Z TO WORK EVEN THE KINDOM OF GOD IS NOT GIVEN IT REQUIRES YOU TO LABOR.

        March 8, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
      • RespectForALLLife

        Good post Oakspar – "Give a man a fish, he can feed his family for a day. Teach him HOW to fish and he can feed his family for years."

        March 8, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Arden30

      You had a lot to get out of your chest, my friend !

      March 8, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • RespectForALLLife

      Superb post! Very well said.

      March 8, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |