Edith Child of Greenwood, S.C., leads the crowd in the campaign chant, "Fired Up, Ready To Go" of then-Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama during a rally in 2008.
WASHINGTON -- There is good reason why President Obama's campaign refers to the African-American voting bloc as the "bedrock" of the president's support.
Two million more black voters turned up at the polls in 2008 than in 2004, and central to the president's re-election strategy is expanding minority participation in 2012.
But political analysts and supporters of the president in the African-American community say that tougher voter-ID laws in the pipeline in several states - including a few battleground states where the black vote will be crucial for Obama's re-election hopes - could diminish black voter turnout in November.
New voter-ID rules are taking center stage during this week's annual meeting of the NAACP in Houston. Likely GOP nominee Mitt Romney is scheduled to address attendees today; Vice President Biden is the headliner Thursday.
Hilary Shelton, NAACP's senior vice president for advocacy and policy, said the organization's members want to hear Romney expand on his views on the new voting laws that the group says disproportionately affect minority voters.
In the battleground state of Pennsylvania, where the NAACP is among the plaintiffs in a lawsuit to block a new voter-ID law there, more than 9% of the state's registered electorate does not have a driver's license or an alternative state identification required under new rules, the Philadelphia Daily News reported last week. In Philadelphia, with a majority African-American population, more than 18% of registered voters don't have required IDs.
"When proponents of these measures say this is a tool to prevent voter fraud, they're missing the point," Shelton said. "Most of the corruption that occurs is by polling officials - those who are put in place to protect and administer process. It's not people pretending to be someone they are not."
Tara Wall, a spokeswoman for Romney, declined to offer details of Romney's speech. In public comments in recent months, the former Massachusetts governor has offered support for tightening voter-ID laws and criticized Attorney General Eric Holder, who has blocked implementation of stricter voter-ID laws in Texas and South Carolina.
"I support efforts to say, look, we want people to come in and make sure they're a citizen of the United States and that they haven't voted multiple times and they're not voting for someone who's passed away," Romney said at a forum in Chester Township, Pa., in April. " I know a number of states are doing that, and we have the attorney general of the United States trying to keep that from happening."
On Tuesday, Holder praised the NAACP efforts on the issue, and noted that the trial stemming from the state of Texas lawsuit against the Justice Department over its law has just begun this week in Washington. The Justice Department found that the proposed Texas law - which would allow voters to use concealed handgun licenses as identification at the polls but not student IDs - would be harmful to minority voters.
"In our efforts to protect voting rights and to prevent voting fraud, we will be vigilant and strong," Holder said in an address to the NAACP conference. "But let me be clear: We will not allow political pretexts to disenfranchise American citizens of their most precious right."
More than 5 million Americans could be affected by the new voting rules, according to an analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. These restrictions - including photo ID requirements, proof of citizenship to register voters and shorter windows for absentee and early voting - fall heaviest on young, minority and low-income voters, the analysis said.
Obama has received some criticism from black activists who say he is not doing enough to battle high unemployment in the black community, and some African-American pastors were angered by the president embracing gay marriage this year.
Larry Sabato, a political analyst at the University of Virginia, said that most polls show Obama should be able to win a large margin of the black vote similar to 2008, and the drop-off in support that some pastors predicted has not materialized. The new voter-ID law, however, presents a wild card for Obama , who will need strong black voter turnout to win Florida and Virginia, Sabato said.
"The question is how many voters end up being discouraged or eliminated on account of the tougher voter-ID laws," Sabato said. "That remains the great unknown for Obama."
Meanwhile, the Obama campaign has launched efforts on the ground and through its gottavote.org website to educate voters about voter-ID law changes in the pipeline.
Edith Childs, an Obama campaign volunteer in South Carolina, said she's been reminding voters not to wait until the last second to get up to speed on the changes.
Childs, from whom Obama borrowed his 2008 campaign call-and-response cheer "Fired up, ready to go," said the message concerning voter ID is simple: "You got to be prepared and get ready now for whatever new rules are coming our way," she said.