On Election Day, NAACP President Ben Jealous addresses voting irregularities nationwide
BlackEnterprise.com: No matter who becomes president, what’s next for black America?
Ben Jealous: The next president needs to target human-rights protection, racial profiling and make sure that the 50 million uninsured people, many of whom are black, get insurance. With the expected changes in congress, we might be able to meet some of these goals even if John McCain is president.
BE: Polls look very promising for Sen. Barack Obama. How in your opinion has he been able to come this far?
Jealous: Clearly the training that Obama got on the Southside of Chicago as a community organizer has served him well. He was able to learn to listen well, push behind his fears and he learned to fight hard.
BE: How should Black America Respond to our next president, whoever he may be?
Jealous: First thing we need to do is celebrate a day of great participation and hard work to increase voter registration and engagement. But the next thing that we have to do is plan. Plan for the next administration and push forward an agenda that deals with the top issues that face our community. We are the most incarcerated people on the planet. We are suffering from housing foreclosure at the highest rate of any group in the society. We have an infant mortality rate that is way too high. We need to make sure that the next president and the next Congress address those issues head on including the discrimination in law enforcement and in lending that lie beneath many of our troubles.
BE: The NAACP brought suit against a county in Virginia that would not extend polling hours or add more voting machines. What came of that and what other voting irregularities have surfaced today?
Jealous: The court ordered them to comply. Long lines have materialized nationwide. There have been long lines in Baltimore; as long as five hours. We’ve been working in states like Ohio and Mississippi dealing with cases of intimidation. At George Mason University a flier was sent misinforming students of the election date. At South Carolina State University the County Board of Elections decided to move the polls 25 miles away from the polling place nearest to the school.
BE: I know that the NAACP has played a huge role in voter registration. How has the NAACP impacted this election?
Jealous: We’ve been organizing voter registration drives for 50 years. Some predominantly black counties this year have reached 95% voter registration. That is the result of decades of work by the NAACP.