GOP doing all it can to keep minorities from voting
November 2, 2004
BY JESSE JACKSON
A record minority vote will turn out today, I predict, the product of an effervescent mobilization to express the vote. But that same minority community is now witnessing a despicable drive to suppress that very same vote.
President Bush, having waged the most negative campaign by any incumbent president in memory, is presiding over a systematic effort to stop African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans from voting.
The mobilization to express the vote is a new small ''d'' democratic eruption. ACORN, the poverty group, registered more than 1.5 million voters this year, overwhelmingly in minority communities, and is gearing up a new effort to get that vote out. US Action, a collection of state groups, added another 500,000. America Coming Together, one of the infamous 527s, added 100,000 more in Philadelphia alone. The NAACP Voter Fund has registered hundreds of thousands also.
Disc jockeys and musicians summon the young to vote. Voter registration at historically black colleges has soared. In Florida, over a million people -- disproportionately African-American -- have stood in long lines to vote early.
Standing against this democratic expression is a systematic Republican effort at voter suppression. The Justice Department reflects Attorney General John Ashcroft's sordid history of discriminating against minority voters rather than the department's historic role of enforcing the Voting Rights Act. Ashcroft has the department focused on ''voter fraud,'' an old Jim Crow trick, not on enforcing voting rights. The Internal Revenue Service has been unleashed, threatening the tax status of the NAACP for criticizing Bush, and calling major African-American ministers, trying to intimidate them from calling on the faithful to vote -- even as Christian Coalition ministers turn their churches into Bush organizing centers.
Republicans have organized no effort to register minorities, but launched an unprecedented campaign to exclude the minority vote. They are organizing outside partisans to come to minority precincts and challenge the registration and vote of people they do not even know, notably in Ohio and Florida. If they challenge a big enough number, they figure, they will gum up the voting in minority precincts and discourage those who don't have the time to wait in long lines.
The Republican National Committee has even rolled out its own disinformation program, issuing public complaints about alleged efforts to intimidate Republican voters, in the hope the press would ignore the stark reality: Democrats are trying to help blacks, Hispanics, workers, the young and the poor register and vote and Republicans are trying to stop them.
In Philadelphia and in Michigan, Republican operatives admitted that it was their job to suppress the minority vote. In Ohio, the partisan state election head tried to exclude newly registered voters, but was slapped down by the courts. In Florida, Gov. Jeb Bush's partisan appointee tried to impose a racially biased and inaccurate felons list of ineligible voters but was slapped down once the list was made public.
In many states, Republican legislatures are ignoring federal reforms, seeking to limit provisional voting. We've already seen in Philadelphia an effort to move minority polling places at the last minute, in the hope that confused voters would give up. In South Carolina, a fake flier claiming to be from the NAACP circulated in black neighborhoods falsely threatening voters with arrest if they show up at the polls and have unpaid parking tickets or have failed to pay child support.
Republicans, having failed to reach out to minority voters, seek to suppress their numbers at the polls.
No doubt Bush's operatives will succeed in intimidating and excluding millions of minority voters. But Dr. King taught us just how precious the right to vote is. And despite all the efforts of the president's men, I predict the people's drive to express the vote will overwhelm the administration's effort to suppress it.