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NAACP President Benjamin Jealous (right)
National Urban League President Marc Morial, Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and NAACP President Benjamin Jealous caught up with The Skanner News on the ground at the Democratic National Convention.
The delegates discussed voter ID laws, the state of the economy and their thoughts on the upcoming election with The Skanner News freelancer John Moreno.
Morial said he was pushing the organization's "Occupy the Vote" campaign at the convention.
"We want ballot integrity," he says. "What we don't want is an assault on democracy that creates new barriers and new restrictions and new hurdles for people to jump before they cast their right to vote."
According to the Brennan Center for Justice, a non-partisan public policy and law institute, 16 states have passed restrictive voting laws that could impact the 2012 election. These states account for 214 electoral votes, which is nearly 79 percent of the total needed to win the Presidential Election.
Jackson added that she is happy the Justice Department struck down voter ID laws in her home state but emphasized the need to continue fighting.
"We're fighting for one vote, one person," she says. "We're not fighting for any one group."
When it comes to the economy, Jackson says the country is better off than when President Obama first took office.
She also points to legislative decisions, such as the passing of the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 and the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, as evidence of the President giving equal opportunities to marginalized groups.
Jackson wasn't surprised by the fact that Presidential candidate Mitt Romney received zero percent support from Black voters in a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll.
"Gov. Romney has every right to set out an agenda that Americans and African Americans will listen to," she says. "When there is no agenda there is no need to support him."
Jealous was disappointed in Romney and others at last week's Republican National Convention who didn't follow in the footsteps of Republicans like Jack Kemp and Ed Brooks, who made efforts to connect with the civil rights community.
On the topic of Romney's zero percent poll numbers, Jealous says, "The way you ensure that doesn't happen, you get out there and speak from the heart about issues facing people of color as if they were your own. There really shouldn't be any space in politicians brains that says those are black issues and I'm not going to trumpet them as if they're my own."
He was also critical of Republicans' emphasis on showing people of color at their convention, despite their policies that seemingly don't address the specific needs of those communities. Jealous noted that there were only 48 Black delegates in Tampa last week.
"They don't need to focus on when they're addressing or displaying the Black folks who are here today," he says. "They need to focus on messages that really resonate in black communities. Talk of what you can do for small businesses. Talk about the common cause we've already found with so many in the Republican Party on criminal justice reform."