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CINCINNATI — Without mentioning the court fight in Ohio, Vice President Joe Biden told a conference of the National Urban League today that politicians are trying to disenfranchise minority voters under the masquerade of fighting voter fraud.
"We see renewed attacks on voting rights across the nation," he said. "This year alone there were 83 initiatives in 29 states to limit access to the ballot box in the name of preventing ... widespread fraud where none was occurring. ... But the fiction of widespread voter fraud continues to persist. Where I live, no American worth their salt could ever defend these new laws."
While he talked about the backlash against laws passed in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, he did not mention Ohio where U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder recently said he will probably get involved in some way in a lawsuit filed by the NAACP and League of Women Voters to fight Republican-passed legislation reducing early and absentee voting opportunities.
On the heels of speaking to the NAACP convention in Las Vegas, the Democratic vice president made the case in Ohio that at the same time such laws threaten minority voting rights, a brightening economic picture is offering new job opportunities for the same groups.
"It's not hyberbole," Mr. Biden said. "We are now in-sourcing (jobs), because again, relative to the rest of the world, we're better positioned than any other nation ..."
But for more Americans to take advantage of those jobs, the nation must invest in workforce training, education, and its infrastructure.
"There are 100,000 manufacturing jobs right now going unfilled becase of the lack of the right skills ...," Mr. Biden said. "These range from welding jobs that pay $36,000 a year to machinists that pay $40,000 a year--not requriing a doctorate degree, not even requiring a community college degree.
"In energy, the epicenter of energy in the world...is North America. It is already here...," he said. "The United States, Canada, and Mexico--not the Arabian peninsula....We'll be energy independent in the next several years and North America will be in the next few years. There's a boom."
Republican Gov. John Kasich was invited to participate but instead made appearances at the Ohio State Fair and a career college graduation in Columbus. His Democratic opponent, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, is expected to speak later today.
Republicans, however, are represented. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus spoke today, and U.S. Rep. Rand Paul, a potential 2016 presidential contender from across the river in Kentucky, is expected to speak Friday during the three-day conference.
Mr. Priebus spoke about the party's attempts to reach out to include minorities, saying some black Democrats believe they have been taken for granted by their party.
"If there’s one thing I’m trying to change, it’s to make us a national party in every community with full-time, paid, on-the-ground staff making our case...," Mr. Priebus said. "We have to be present year-round. We can’t just show up a few months before an election, and we can’t just be a U-haul trailer of cash for our nominee."
He spoke of the party's support for job-training, apprenticeships, and school vouchers as a means to allow students to escape struggling public schools. The last issue is particularly popular in the African American community.
"America’s underemployment, especially Black America’s underemployment, is a crisis," Mr Priebus said. "But the commentators on TV tell us that the economy’s getting better. That’s because they don’t see the whole picture. They don’t see the people who are exhausted from looking for jobs that don’t exist.
"They forget that the black unemployment rate isn’t that national rate of 6.1 percent," he said. "According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it’s 10.7 percent, and that’s a problem we must address."