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NAACP watching, ready for voter problems

Associated Press | 10/15/2008, 4:26 a.m.

SAN ANTONIO — The NAACP will have lawyers targeting 750 precincts around the nation on Election Day to help address complaints about possible voter disenfranchisement, the organization’s new president said.

Benjamin Jealous, who took the helm of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People on Sept. 15, said volunteer lawyers have already been addressing complaints about voter registration problems. On Election Day, lawyers will be sent to the 750 precincts where there has been a history of voter discrimination, Jealous said last Saturday at the state NAACP convention.

Jealous also said he hopes that Democratic nominee Barack Obama’s growing popularity will aid the civil rights organization. Obama’s background as a community organizer and civil rights attorney could help as the NAACP targets quality education and other equality issues, he said.

But Jealous said Obama’s rise has also occasionally led people to question whether the 99-year-old organization is still relevant.

“If Obama is elected, won’t colored people have advanced as far as they can advance?” Jealous recalled being asked.

“The condition of the grassroots” will determine whether the NAACP can shut its doors, not the advancement of a single man, said Jealous, the youngest-ever leader of the group at age 35.

The presidential primary campaign highlighted the differences between many Hispanic voters and black voters. Hispanic voters helped give Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton a win in Texas, temporarily stalling the Obama campaign’s momentum before he eventually secured the nomination.

Asked whether black and Latino leaders should try to help bridge the gap, Jealous said he’s already met with the head of the National Council of La Raza. He added that black and Latino communities, which often face similar civil rights challenges, will have to work together to be effective.

“We need to build multiracial coalitions as if our future depends on it, because it does,” Jealous said.

(Associated Press)