Jim Crow Revival
Aaron McGruders Boondocks got it right. A recent cartoon strip showed Donald Rumsfeld talking about how an election in only three-fourths or four-fifths of the country for whatever reason would be better than not having an election at all. And now, Rumsfeld says, Id like to switch gears and talk about Iraq.
In the United States, we are less than a month away from the election and already it is clear that strenuous efforts are being made to intimidate, impede and obstruct the vote of minorities, particularly African Americans. If the intimidators have their way, well have a vote in which as much as a fourth of the countrys citizens will have to overcome barriers in order to vote. Iraq will have nothing on us.
Voter suppression has been a technique used by both parties. But today, the Republican Party, which built its majority by becoming a whites-only party across the South, has a particular stake in suppressing the minority vote. Republicans know that if African Americans and Latinos vote in large numbers, their race-bait politics becomes a liability, not strength. So they are unleashing the modern version of Jim Crow voter suppression techniques. Consider the following:
In Florida -- yes Florida once more -- Governor Jeb Bush and his partisan election commissioner tried to enforce a biased list of felons to exclude voters, including thousands of African Americans who werent felons while having virtually no Cuban Americans on the list. (They tend to vote Republican). Bush has also insisted on using voting machines that have no paper record, and are easily manipulated. Former president Jimmy Carter said he could not serve as an election observer in Florida because the Governors system failed to meet minimal international standards for free elections. The Civil Rights Commission reported that in 2000, black voters in Florida were 10 times more likely than non-black voters to have their ballots rejected and were often prevented from voting because their names were erroneously purged from registration lists
The Justice Department should be aggressively investigating these outrages under the Voting Rights Act. But Attorney General John Ashcroft is a rabid right-wing Republican partisan who is no stranger to voter suppression. As Governor of Missouri, he vetoed two efforts to correct biased registration provisions between St Louis County (then mostly white) and St Louis City (half African American).
The Kerry campaign and outside groups are organizing voter protection efforts and batteries of lawyers to help those who have their right to vote challenged. But Jim Crow tactics only get reversed when their victims organize and move together. We need a new movement for voting rights in this country. Those who seek to tamper with this basic right are unfit for office.
Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr., is founder and President of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.
-- Issued October 5, 2004
Published in In Motion Magazine October 25, 2004.
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