lynching of the black vote
Many books will be written about the stolen presidential election
of 2000. And when they are, one prominent factor will be the Republicans
systematic and extra-legal effort to reduce black voting, details of
which are just now being pieced together.
Black turnout was way up this year, and nowhere more dramatically than
in Florida. Black voters there were upset with Governor Jeb Bush's retreat
on affirmative action.
They were mobilized by effective registration and get-out-the-vote drives
by civil rights groups and black churches.
Jesse Jackson spent weeks in Florida, speaking to large African-American
crowds, with a punchline that became a familiar refrain: Stay out of
Although black turnout tends to slightly lag white turnout, this year
16 percent of registered voters in Florida were black, up from 10 percent
in 1996. And blacks, loyal to Clinton-Gore and unhappy with the brothers
Bush, gave Gore-Lieberman a striking 90 percent of their votes nationally
and 93 percent in Florida, up dramatically from what Clinton-Gore received
But Republican strategists were ready. And it is becoming increasingly
obvious that a combination of deliberate vote suppression coupled with
more subtle institutional discrimination combined to deny thousands
of black Florida voters their franchise.
As the New York Times first reported, Florida election officials devised
a laptop program allowing local election officials to tap directly into
the master database in Tallahassee to determine whether a voter who
did not show up on local rolls was in fact registered to vote. But only
one of the laptop computers was distributed to a black area.
The Times reported that the precincts equipped with laptops favored
Bush. In predominantly black precincts, if a voter found his or her
name wrongly omitted from the rolls, a harried polling place worker
had to try to get through to Tallahassee on the phone, and the lines
were invariably busy. In Miami-Dade, black votes were thrown out at
four times the rate of white votes.
It also turns out that many of the blacks whose names were mysteriously
disqualified were not purged accidentally. As Gregory Palast reported
in the internet magazine Salon.com, Republican officials hired ChoicePoint,
an outside vendor with Republican ties, to cleanse the rolls of felons
- but at least 8,000 names, disproportionately minority, were improperly
Other black voters reported being harassed, turned away, or given misleading
ballot instructions. Republican officials have been quoted suggesting
that if a disproportionate share of ballots from black precincts were
spoiled, well, you know, these people arent too smart. Sorry, Florida
voters are plenty smart about spotting racism.
In addition, a disproportionate share of archaic punch- card systems
prone to error were in precincts with large minority populations. The
whiter counties had more modern, optical scanners and lower rates of
The institutional racism of poorer and blacker communities getting shoddier
public services is an old story. But some of the racism, it now develops,
Republican ''ballot integrity'' programs to intimidate black voters
have long been familiar in the white south. Republican agents, sometimes
aided by local police, warned blacks seeking to vote that even innocent
technical errors in their registration information, such as wrong addresses,
could subject them to arrest. Blacks seeking to vote were often photographed,
with the implication that they might be arrested later.
Thirty-five years after Congress passed the Voting Rights Act, it was
reasonable to assume that these relics of America's racist past were
now just something for the history books. But electoral racism is alive
and well in Florida.
Before the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960s, blacks were deterred from
voting by lynchings. Today in the Internet age, black voters are lynched
At the Republican National Convention, there were more blacks as token
entertainers than there were black delegates. The cynicism of George
W. Bush's minstrel show was the object of wide ridicule. Apparently
it didn't fool many black voters. But when slick public relations failed,
the Bush campaign evidently stooped to cruder methods.
Investigations and lawsuits will eventually establish just how many
black votes were suppressed or stolen. But it's already clear that the
number easily exceeds Bush's current lead in Florida.
We've been hearing a lot of media blather lately about the importance
of bipartisanship and unity. Instead, the pundits should be investigating
this theft. If Bush does take the oath of office January 20, he will
take office as a fraud. And if he preaches bipartisan or racial healing,
he is an even bigger fraud.
|By Robert Kuttner, 12/10/2000
This story ran on page H07 of the Boston Globe on
Date: 10 Dec 00 19:38:56 EST
From: Norio Kushi email@example.com