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Published by Jamie Sanderson

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Published by: Jamie Sanderson on Apr 19, 2011
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 S  CI   AR OR
Voter Intimidationand SuppressioninAmerica Today
Ralph G. Neas, PFAWF PresidentJulian Bond, NAACP Chairman2000 M Street NW, Suite 4004805 Mt. Hope DriveWashington, DC 20036Baltimore, MD 21215202/467-4999410/358-8900www.pfaw.orgwww.naacp.org
The Long Shadow of Jim Crow:Voter Intimidation and Suppressionin America Today
In a nation where children are taught in grade school that every citizen has the right tovote, it would be comforting to think that the last vestiges of voter intimidation,oppression and suppression were swept away by the passage and subsequentenforcement of the historic Voting Rights Act of 1965. It would be good to know thatvoters are no longer turned away from the polls based on their race, never knowinglymisdirected, misinformed, deceived or threatened.Unfortunately, it would be a grave mistake to believe it.In every national American election since Reconstruction, every election since theVoting Rights Act passed in 1965, voters
particularly African American voters andother minorities
have faced calculated and determined efforts at intimidation andsuppression. The bloody days of violence and retribution following the Civil War andReconstruction are gone. The poll taxes, literacy tests and physical violence of the JimCrow era have disappeared. Today, more subtle, cynical and creative tactics have takentheir place.
Race-Based Targeting 
Here are a few examples of recent incidents in which groups of voters have beensingled out on the basis of race.- Most recently, controversy has erupted over the use in the Orlando area of armed,plainclothes officers from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) toquestion elderly black voters in their homes. The incidents were part of a stateinvestigation of voting irregularities in the city's March 2003 mayoral election. Criticshave charged that the tactics used by the FDLE have intimidated black voters, whichcould suppress their turnout in this year’s elections. Six members of Congress recentlycalled on Attorney General John Ashcroft to investigate potential civil rights violationsin the matter.- This year in Florida, the state ordered the implementation of a “potential felon” purgelist to remove voters from the rolls, in a disturbing echo of the infamous 2000 purge,which removed thousands of eligible voters, primarily African-Americans, from therolls. The state abandoned the plan after news media investigations revealed that the
2004 list also included thousands of people who were eligible to vote, and heavilytargeted African-Americans while virtually ignoring Hispanic voters.- This summer, Michigan state Rep. John Pappageorge (R-Troy) was quoted in the
Detroit Free Press
as saying, “If we do not suppress the Detroit vote, we're going to havea tough time in this election.” African Americans comprise 83% of Detroit’s population.- In South Dakota’s June 2004 primary, Native American voters were prevented fromvoting after they were challenged to provide photo IDs, which they were not requiredto present under state or federal law.- In Kentucky in July 2004, Black Republican officials joined to ask their State GOP partychairman to renounce plans to place “vote challengers” in African-American precinctsduring the coming elections.- Earlier this year in Texas, a local district attorney claimed that students at a majorityblack college were not eligible to vote in the county where the school is located. Ithappened in Waller County – the same county where 26 years earlier, a federal courtorder was required to prevent discrimination against the students.- In 2003 in Philadelphia, voters in African American areas were systematicallychallenged by men carrying clipboards, driving a fleet of some 300 sedans withmagnetic signs designed to look like law enforcement insignia.- In 2002 in Louisiana, flyers were distributed in African American communities tellingvoters they could go to the polls on Tuesday, December 10th
three days
a Senaterunoff election was actually held.- In 1998 in South Carolina, a state representative mailed 3,000 brochures to AfricanAmerican neighborhoods, claiming that law enforcement agents would be “working”the election, and warning voters that “this election is not worth going to jail.”
Recent Strategies 
As this report details, voter intimidation and suppression is not a problem limited to thesouthern United States. It takes place from California to New York, Texas to Illinois. Itis not the province of a single political party, although patterns of intimidation havechanged as the party allegiances of minority communities have changed over the years.In recent years, many minority communities have tended to align with the DemocraticParty. Over the past two decades, the Republican Party has launched a series of “ballotsecurity” and “voter integrity” initiatives which have targeted minority communities.At least three times, these initiatives were successfully challenged in federal courts asillegal attempts to suppress voter participation based on race.

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