WASHINGTON – NAACP Chief Benjamin Todd Jealous has issued letters to Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele and Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine calling for an end to campaign tactics that serve to mislead, deceive, or otherwise intimidate voters from visiting polling places. The move comes after the release of a misleading North Carolina State Republican Party mailer that distorted facts in order to intimidate voters.
“This mailer is just the most recent campaign tactic that is meant to drive voters away from the polls rather than helping educate them and encouraging them to participate,” said Jealous. “Too often in the past few years we have seen political operatives spreading disingenuous rumors in order to scare voters into voting for their candidate, or, more often, not voting at all – including misinformation on where, when and how to vote. It should not be in anyone’s political interest to drive down voter turnout, which undercuts the integrity of our hard-fought democratic right to vote. ”
The misleading North Carolina mailer criticized the state’s Racial Justice Act and distorted the effect of the legislation, which enables courts – upon established evidence of racial bias during sentencing – to prevent erroneous executions by commuting a sentence to life imprisonment without parole. The mailer falsely asserts that the Racial Justice Act would allow death row inmates to roam the streets of North Carolina towns, viciously killing innocent men, women and children. To add insult to injury, the mailer also attacked State House Majority Leader Hugh Holliman, who himself lost his daughter to violent crime.
North Carolina NAACP State Conference President Rev. William J. Barber, III called on State Republican Party Chairman Thomas Fetzer last week to repudiate the mailer and issue an apology. Fetzer has since apologized for causing Holliman’s family personal pain.
“We are very zealous in our efforts to stop race discrimination and dishonesty by political parties and operatives,” Barber said. “Honest debate is one thing, but deliberate dishonesty is another. Your sloppy research, your not-so-subtle appeal to racial fears, and your boorish behavior toward the Holliman family, who themselves suffered the great family tragedy of losing a daughter to a violent crime, are over-the-top.”
“For a Democratic system of government to be effective, it must have full participation by all of its eligible voters,” said Hilary Shelton, NAACP VP of Advocacy and DC Bureau Chief. “We must do everything in our power to make sure that every voter is registered, educated on the issues and able to cast a vote of his or her own free will, and we must be assured that every vote will be counted. Yet as this election cycle draws to a close, we have seen a sad and disturbing trend where civility takes a back seat to inflammatory rhetoric, unabashed misinformation and outright lies. I hope that political leaders will join us in this call.”