NAACP leaders arrested during voting rights protest in Virginia

August 9, 2016 1:23 AM EDT

NAACP President Cornell William Brooks poses backstage during the 47th NAACP Image Awards in Pasadena, California February 5, 2016. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

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(Reuters) - NAACP President Cornell William Brooks and Stephen Green, the body's youth director, were arrested on Monday in a congressman’s district office in Virginia over a six-hour sit-in protest on voting rights, the NAACP said.

The men were cited for the protest at the office of U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte in Roanoke, Virginia to demand restoration of parts of the Voting Rights Act, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People said in a statement.

"With the fate of our national moral character at stake, we must hold our elected leaders responsible to act to uphold the constitutional rights guaranteed for all citizens to vote and participate in our democracy," Brooks said.

The pair, and a small group of protesters, had hoped to persuade Goodlatte, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, to hold hearings on state voting laws proposed after the Supreme Court ruled that nine states no longer had to get federal approval for voting rule changes that affect minorities.

During the last several years, a handful of states have tried to enact laws tightening curbs on the identification voters must show in order to cast a ballot.

Critics say such provisions aim to cut turnout by minorities and poor people, who rely more on flexible voting methods and are less likely to possess state-issued photo IDs. Proponents of such laws say they aim to eliminate voter fraud.

A 2012 study at Arizona State University showed in-person voter impersonation on election day to be virtually non-existent, however.

Federal courts have recently blocked laws in states such as Texas, North Dakota, North Carolina and Wisconsin as being discriminatory and violating the U.S. Voting Rights Act.

Remedies to combat unconstitutional voting discrimination are in place, Goodlatte said in a statement to media.

"We will continue to monitor this very important issue to ensure the voting rights of all Americans are protected," he said.

Green and Brooks were cited for criminal trespassing and refusing to sign a summons. Both men were released by police, an NBC affiliate in Roanoke said.

(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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