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Shades of Jim Crow: Election Intimidation 2004 [View All]

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Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-10-04 11:31 PM
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Shades of Jim Crow: Election Intimidation 2004
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Shades of Jim Crow: Election Intimidation 2004

Revolutionary Worker #1258, November 14, 2004, posted at

"The ballot box has never been where the direction of the country has been decided. Nor has it been where issues of major concern for the people have been decided. But it is intolerable that Bush and company are trying to steal this election. It is a reflection of how serious things are in the U.S. that they cant even allow the election to go down without the group in power trying to rig the result. This cant be allowed to happen. It must be met with determined resistance."

Carl Dix, national spokesperson of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
on the eve of the 2004 election

When Kerry conceded this election to George Bush, his capitulation shut down investigations into the massive voter fraud and intimidation. Yet again, the suppression of the Black vote became an unreported story.

Here is what you wont likely see investigated in depth on Fox News (or CNN): These elections featured massive and outrageous voter disenfranchisement. Black people were targeted in Michigan and the key swing state of Ohio. Native peoples were harassed in South Dakota. Anti-Bush Latinos were reportedly challenged in a number of other tightly contested states.

Many people know how the 2000 election was stolen and how the Supreme Court stopped the votes in Florida from being recountedcarrying out a rightwing judicial coup for George W. Bush. And many people were determined that this would not happen again in 2004.

Yet, once again, basic democratic rights were shamelessly denied to Black and Latino people in several places. And once again we are all being called on to accept the results of such an election, even to consider this a "mandate."

This article is being written just a few days after the elections. We expect even more information to leak out about how Black people and others were suppressed at the polls. But some things are already known.

This article will focus on the hotly contested swing state of Ohiowhere a narrow Bush "victory" decided the outcome of this election.
"Vote Challengers" or the Return of Jim Crow

Results on Wednesday morning showed Bush ahead in Ohioleading Kerry by 136,484 votes with "100% of precincts reporting." However, these results did not include 247,672 votes from two other sources that were not counted.

BBC investigative reporter Greg Palast has concluded that if these discarded votes were counted, then Kerry may well have won the state.

The first component of uncounted votes in Ohio was the 155,000 provisional ballots. Provisional ballots are given to voters when their names do not appear on the voter rolls or when their right to vote is "challenged."

Greg Palast described what a "challenged" voter really means: "Thats a polite word for the Republican Party of Ohios use of an old Ku Klux Klan technique: the attempt to block thousands of voters of color at the polls. In Ohio, Wisconsin and Florida, the GOP laid plans for poll workers to ambush citizens under arcane laws almost never usedallowing party-designated poll watchers to finger individual voters and demand they be denied a ballot."

Ohio courts and two federal judges initially ruled that partisan "challengers" should not be allowed at the polls. However, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the lower federal courts and allowed partisan vote challengers, a decision that was upheld by the now-notorious U.S. Supreme Court on the eve of these elections.

This set the stage for the Republicans to place 3,500 of their "challengers" into Ohio polling stations to intimidate likely anti-Bush voters. The plan was simple: these "challengers" were often rightwing activists brought in from out-of-state, and taken to communities that were likely to vote against Bush. There they were unleashed to challenge voters by profilingfirst-time Black voters, progressive-looking people, and others. They would challenge the voter and seek to have the vote thrown into the "provisional" pileor else just harass and humiliate the person until they just walked out in frustration.

In Ohio, the election was extremely closeand the purpose of these tactics was simple: Suppress the anti-Bush vote in urban, progressive and Black areas in order to create a margin of victory for Bush. And nationally the tight electoral race boiled down to this: whoever won Ohio won the countrywide electoral vote.

A woman poll observer told the RW in Cleveland, "Here is a community being disenfranchised because of who they are and where they are. Theyre not going to let them be a part of this process to vote. Which is part of their democratic rights. It seems like were going backwards in time.. I couldnt believe how the Republican challenger was trying to intimidate people who were having trouble voting. My grandparents always told me stuff like that happened, but you never really realized ityou never really saw it happen.. It wasnt right, what has been going on to discourage Black people from voting."

People in some areas were forced to wait in huge lines in order to voteand there are widespread suspicions that such delays were deliberately caused in those areas where heavy anti-Bush voting was likely. For example, students at progressive Oberlin College had to wait in line up to seven hours! Meanwhile, people in rural, conservative precincts reportedly had almost no wait.

Ohios Republican Secretary of State, J. Kenneth Blackwell, went to court before the election so that he could refuse to count provisional ballots that were valid but where the voter just went to the wrong precinct. This is despite the fact that a federal law passed in 2002 requires states to accept provisional ballots as long as they are cast in the correct county.

The Republican Party also attempted to disqualify about 35,000 voters in Ohio, the majority of whom are Black.

Suzie Husami, a University of Toledo student, received a letter from the Board of Elections reading: "NOTICE OF HEARING Pursuant to Ohio Revised Code Section 3503.24: your registration is being challenged. The reason stated as the basis for this challenge is that you are unqualified to vote because you are not a resident of the precinct where you can vote. A hearing has been set at the above stated place and time. You have the right to appear, testify and call witnesses and to be represented by an attorney."

The letter came from the director of the Toledo Board of Elections. Although many of these challenges were thrown out, the Republican Party said before the election that it planned to challenge 14,000 voters in Cleveland. Obviously, many people who received such letters were discouraged from voting.
How Black Votes Are Considered "Spoiled"

The other pool of uncounted ballots are the so-called "spoiled ballots."

A dirty fact of the U.S. political process is that about 2% of the votes cast in elections are never counted because they are labelled "spoiled." These are usually rejected either because there was an "undervote" (because the voters "punch" did not push completely through the ballot) or because there was an "over-vote" (a ballot with extra markings).

It is estimated that over one-half of the ballots that are labeled "spoiled" are cast by African Americans. In other words, over one million Black votes are never counted in national elections! This means that roughly one in seven Black voters, or 14% of the Black electorate, is effectively knocked out of the count.

In Florida in 2000, the U.S. Civil Rights Commission found that 54% of the uncounted votes were cast by Black people. The likelihood that a Black voter would have their vote disqualified was eight times that for whites! (See the accompanying table.)

According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer there were at least 92,672 "spoiled" ballots in the 2004 election in Ohio. It is very likely that the majority of these non-votes were cast by Black voters.
No Paper Trails with Electronic Voting

Electronic voting machines do not have any problems with spoiled ballots (since it is impossible to undervote or over-vote). However not a single Black-majority precinct in Ohio used those voting machines.

Meanwhile, in those precincts that got the new machines, there were repeatedly high counts for Bushbut because there is no paper trail, it is difficult to investigate or recount.

An error with an electronic voting system gave President Bush 3,893 extra votes in suburban Columbus, elections officials said. One precinct in Franklin County had Bush receiving 4,258 votes to Democrat John Kerrys 260 votes. Records show only 638 voters cast ballots in that precinct. Bushs total should have been recorded as 365.
Other Dirty Tricks

In Lake County, Ohio, a fake letter was sent to newly registered voters. It claimed to be from " Lake County Board of Elections" and said voters registered by the Kerry campaigns or the NAACP are illegal. It said the voters registered that way would not be able to vote. Similar forged letters were received by Black voters in other parts of the country. In one, people were told that voters arriving at the polls would be served with outstanding warrants and parking tickets. In another, Black people were told they would be denied the vote if anyone in their family had a criminal record. In a third forged letter, people were told that, because of increased voter turnout, Kerry voters should cast their ballots on November 3 instead of election day.

Meanwhile, thousands of people who were once convicted of felonies were falsely told by Ohio state agencies that they could not register to vote if they are on probation or parole. State law in Ohio allows convicted felons to vote after their release from prison, even if they are on probation or parole.
What About Kerry?

"John Kerry and I made a promise to the American people that with this election, every vote would count and every vote would be counted. Tonight, we are keeping our word, and we will fight for every vote. You deserve no less."

John Edwards on election day

Many people hoped that Kerry would demand investigations into voter fraud. There were literally thousands of lawyers mobilized around the country to investigate and formally protest voter fraud and intimidations.

But after promising to fight, Kerry (like Gore before him) chose to embrace George W. Bush and accept Bushs claims of victory. As his supporters listened, often in shock and frustration, Kerry announced, "In the days ahead, we must find common cause, we must join in common effort, without remorse or recrimination, without anger or rancor."

Meanwhile, Bushs rightwing supporters were openly mocking any talk of "unity" and "healing"and were describing how they would now ram their fascist program down everyones throats.

For a year, this election has been systematically manipulated and riggedso that the will of the people could not be expressed. The official Democratic Party machine decreed that no antiwar candidate would be considered "serious" or "electable." Dean was rudely dumped. Kerry was selected. People were denied any real chance to vote for an anti-war candidate in the elections.

For the long months of campaigning, this election was reduced to an auditionfor the ruling classover who would be the best "commander-in-chief" and who was most suited to WIN the brutal and unjust conquest of Iraq.

After all this, this system, and in particular the Republican Party, resurrected hated tactics from the Jim Crow Southwhere dirty tricks and open intimidation were used to suppress Black people in key precincts.

And then, in the face of such outrages, the Democrats once again refused to "fight for every vote" or denounce the naked racism of the Republican tactics. Once again, the rights of Black people were not as important as establishing the legitimacy of a vicious president and maintaining the stability of the whole system.

The bitter taste of this election will not soon leave peoples mouths. And the bitter lessons of this rigged election season need to be studied, debated and deeply understood.
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