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The mission of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is to secure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights in order to eliminate race-based discrimination and ensure the health and well-being of all persons.

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Mississippi is facing a lawsuit challenging its restrictive law governing who can vote by mail and who must go to the polls, like this 2018 voter in Ridgeland.

Lawsuit targets restrictive voting laws in Mississippi

A lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court challenges the requirements governing voting by absentee ballot in Mississippi — among the most restrictive of any state.

The suit takes issue with the rule that people have an excuse in order to vote by mail, that absentee ballots must be notarized, and that the state has no provision for notifying people if an absentee ballot has been rejected so voters can fix the problem.

Mississippi is one of just seven states that requires an excuse for people to receive an absentee ballot for the November election, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. A majority of states already have "no excuse" absentee voting and several more are making an exception for the 2020 general election because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Ben Jealous, who spoke at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, is the new president of People for the American Way.

Meet the reformer: Ben Jealous, who's back to lead a second premier voting rights group

Few advocacy leaders can say they have led two of the more storied progressive organizations fighting for civil rights and voting rights. Ben Jealous now counts himself a member of that select cohort. The youngest person named to head the NAACP, in 2008 when he was just 35, he led that organization through the Trayvon Martin case, the fight over New York's stop-and-frisk policies and other civil rights battles. He also formed the Democracy Initiative, a progressive coalition pushing campaign finance and voting rights reform. He left the NAACP in 2013 and was the Democratic nominee for governor of Maryland two years ago, losing to GOP incumbent Larry Hogan by 12 points. In June he was named president of People for the American Way, the progressive group founded by TV visionary Norman Lear. His answers have been edited for clarity and length.

What's democracy's biggest challenge, in 10 words or less?

Money in politics.

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Big Picture
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"Every injustice has awakened more people from their dream of 'it's all OK.," writes F. Willis Johnson. Above, demonstrators protest the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson., Mo., in 2014.

After six years of 'mourning runs,' a pause for optimism

Johnson is a United Methodist pastor, the author of "Holding Up Your Corner: Talking About Race in Your Community" (Abingdon Press, 2017) and a senior fellow at the Bridge Alliance, a coalition of more than 100 civic reform groups. (Disclosure: The Bridge Alliance Education Fund is a funder of The Fulcrum.)

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