Black Leaders Slam 'Illegitimate' Bush Presidency
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Source: Common Dreams
Published on Thursday, January 4, 2001 by the InterPress Service
Black Leaders Slam 'Illegitimate' Bush
by Katherine Stapp
NEW YORK - A group of prominent African-Americans has challenged the electoral victory
of Republican President-elect George W. Bush after a ballot exercise marked by numerous
charges of selective disenfranchisement of black voters.
Denouncing what they described as ''massive voting irregularities'' in the November polls,
eight prominent black leaders have vowed to aggressively contest two of Bush's cabinet
nominations, to protest his inauguration on Jan. 20, and to pursue comprehensive electoral
reform in the courts and in Congress.
A ''national emergency summit'' was announced for Thursday at Howard University in
Washington, which will involve the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured
People, the Nation of Islam, the National Urban League, and other leading African American
''The Center for Constitutional Rights is committed to opposing the legitimacy of this regime,
which was born of the disenfranchisement of millions of people in this country,'' said Ron
Daniels, the Center's executive director, who organised a panel Tuesday at a forum titled
'From Protest to Democracy' in Washington DC.
''It is our duty to resist,'' said Daniels, calling for a broad- based protest on Jan. 20 - the date
of President-elect Bush's inauguration - at ''the scene of the crime, the Supreme Court of
the United States''.
Rev. Al Sharpton, whose National Action Network is also organising a ''shadow
inauguration'', said the march would not solve the problem, but it would ''dramatically show
the world that we're not suffering from amnesia''.
''Some say that it's over, that it's time to move on,'' he said, adding, ''It's not over.''
At Tuesday's event at the National Press Club, panellists cited mounting evidence that large
numbers of African Americans had their ballots thrown out because of confusing
instructions and faulty voting equipment - or were discouraged from voting at all.
In Florida, nearly 10,000 ballots cast by heavily Democratic- leaning black voters were
disqualified. These spoiled ballots had a crucial impact on the election since Bush won
Florida by a mere 537 votes, and winning Florida gave him the presidency under the
electoral college system, even though he lost the popular vote.
''We're worried about Florida because the fulcrum ended up there, but what we really need
to do is go state by state, precinct by precinct, and look at all the ways in which people
were disenfranchised,'' said Dr. Julianne Malveaux, a prominent African American journalist.
A partial analysis by the Washington Post recently found that the problems were not limited
Black areas of Alabama, for example, had one in every 16 ballots thrown out due to errors,
while the invalidation rate for black neighbourhoods in Chicago, Illinois rose to one in six -
much, much higher than the rates in white precincts. Both places were using old-fashioned
machines that require voters to punch holes in a card, which can produce marred ballots if
the bits of paper stick - the infamous ''hanging chads'' and ''pregnant chads''.
The discrepancy between votes cast and votes counted is called the ''drop-off rate'' by
statisticians. Although the average national drop-off rate in 1996 was 2.08 percent,
according to research by Scripps Howard News Service, it was more than twice that in
areas with a majority of African American and Latino voters.
Other problems cited in the November election included confusion over voter registration
rolls and polling places, police harassment, and the misclassification of thousands of
people as convicted felons, who are barred from voting in many states.
Speakers at the meeting also expressed grave concern over the nomination of former
Missouri Senator John Ashcroft for attorney-general, a key civil rights post.
In 1998, Ashcroft told an extremist publication called Southern Partisan that ''your magazine
also helps set the record straight. You've got a heritage of doing that, of defending southern
patriots like [Robert E.] Lee, [Stonewall] Jackson and Jefferson [Davis]''.
''Traditionalists must do more. I've got to do more,'' Ashcroft said in the interview. ''We've all
got to stand up and speak in this respect, or else we'll be taught that these people were
giving their lives, subscribing their sacred fortunes and their honour to some perverted
agenda'' - meaning slavery.
Southern Partisan has described David Duke, a former Klansman who made a bid for the
US Senate, as ''a Populist spokesperson for a recapturing of the American ideal''.
Ashcroft has yet to pass muster in the Senate, and Rev. Jesse Jackson of the
Rainbow/PUSH coalition is leading the charge to block his appointment by aggressively
lobbying Democratic lawmakers - who currently make up half the Senate - to vote against
Another contested nomination is that of Christine Todd Whitman, the governor of New
Jersey, to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Whitman presided over a massive
police racism scandal, prompting Al Sharpton to refer to her as the ''queen of racial
''At a time when we espouse the values of democracy around the world, we cannot tolerate
the dishonest and chicanery to suppress the vote of African American citizens,'' said Rev.
Walter Fauntroy, a former congressman for the District of Columbia and president of the
National Black Leadership Roundtable.
''We have a challenge as people of conscience to move this nation toward the principles that
we enunciate but failed to live up to on Nov. 7,'' he said.
In addition to the ''Day of Resistance'' on Jan. 20, Fauntroy said that efforts would be made
to get out the vote in upcoming legislative races. He also expected the public airing of voter
complaints before the federal Civil Rights Commission headed by Mary Frances Berry, a
push for uniform voting standards, and ongoing lawsuits.
In a discussion of alternatives to the current winner-take-all system, Columbia University
Professor and syndicated columnist Manning Marable advocated ''instant run-off voting'', in
which voters indicate a second choice on the ballot. If no candidate receives 50 percent, the
candidates with the least votes are knocked off and their votes reassigned to the two front-
''It would not require a constitutional amendment,'' Prof. Marable explained. ''You can vote for
the person you want, and not end up with the person you hate the most'' - a reference to
Ralph Nader supporters handing the election to Bush.
Other speakers included Laura Murphy, executive director of the legislative bureau of the
American Civil Liberties Union, Dr. Ramona Edelin, executive director of the Congressional
Black Caucus Foundation, and Benjamin Jealous, executive director of the National
Newspaper Publishers Association, the nation's only black wire service.
''We tend to take our own oppression for granted,'' Jealous said. ''Our commitment is to
make sure that black young people understand that we won this election.''
Copyright 2001 InterPress Service
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