Silver Rights

News, thoughts and comments on civil rights and related issues.

Thursday, October 21, 2004  

Media: Ad channels Atwater, Helms

Lee Atwater may be dead, but his spirit lingers on. The mastermind behind the television advertisement that used racism to garner votes for the Republicans in 1988 would be proud of an ad airing in Oklahoma. The infamous Willie Horton ad implied African-Americans were criminals threatening white Americans, who needed to vote Republican to be protected. The ad in Oklahoma suggests that people of color are the only recipients of welfare payments.

The Associated Press covered the controversy.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Blacks, Hispanics and American Indians accused Republicans of race-baiting in Oklahoma's Senate race Wednesday in a television ad that shows images of Hispanics and dark hands receiving welfare payments.

The ad, which attacks Democratic candidate Brad Carson's voting record on immigration, was described as malicious and xenophobic by spokespersons for various minority groups who called on Republican candidate Tom Coburn to disavow it.

"Is this going to be another century of discrimination?" said David Puente of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Oklahoma City.

. . .The GOP ad, paid for by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, says Carson pledged to fight for Oklahoma jobs but voted to make it easier for illegal immigrants to "cross our borders and take our jobs" and to allow immigrants to get welfare.

But Coburn is not the only Republican who has used an ad that encourages bigotry to his advantage. The Houston Chronicle recalls another successful use of the tactic.

Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-Houston, a leader in the Congressional Black Caucus, said Republicans were "so desperate to win that they will use images of black people and brown people that are very clearly intended to appeal to the lowest instincts of people."

Democrats likened the ad to a famous 1990 spot for Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., that showed white hands crumpling up a piece of paper as a narrator criticized affirmative action. The Helms ad, which asserted that qualified white applicants were losing jobs because of racial hiring quotas, was incendiary but effective. Helms won a narrow victory over Harvey Gantt, a black Democrat.

The GOP has refused to repudiate the ad. Meanwhile, the contest between Carson and Coburn has tightened. It is now neck and neck. Former President George Bush will be among those campaigning for Coburn.

Reasonably related

~ Tom Coburn's mouth may have written a check his arse can't pay, as they say down South. His remark that "You have a bunch of crapheads in Oklahoma City," appears to be backfiring. Democrats are using it on billboards in, you guessed it, Oklahoma City.

~ Learn more about the Willie Horton ad.

posted by J. | 11:30 PM

Tuesday, October 19, 2004  

Politics: Philly GOP fails to block the vote

Yesterday, we discussed procedural hurdles dogging new black voters in Florida. It appears many new registrants will be excluded from actually voting on the grounds they did not fill out forms completely. A reader brought my attention to claims of a more blatant form of discrimination in Philadelphia. It appears that there the GOP has attempted to move voting sites out of predominantly black neighborhoods. If voters go to their presumed polling place on Election Day, only to discover it is no longer there, they may not have time to look for the replacement location or may be unable to find it.

The Philadelphia Daily News has the story.

REPUBLICAN OPERATIVES working to re-elect President [Geroge W.] Bush submitted last-minute requests in Philadelphia on Friday to relocate 63 polling places.

Bush's Pennsylvania campaign staff filed the requests, using the names of two Republicans running for the U.S. Congress and seven Republican ward leaders.

Of the 63 requests for changes, 53 are in political divisions where the population of white voters is less than 10 percent.

"I think this is more evidence of Republicans working to disenfranchise low-income and minority voters," said Mark Nevins, a spokesman for U.S. Sen. John Kerry. "It's despicable."

Bob Lee, voter registration administrator for the City Commission, said the requests appear to be "discriminatory" and were filed too late to be eligible for a hearing on Wednesday.

"They're trying to suppress the vote," Lee said of Republicans.

Making it difficult for nonwhites to vote has long been a key component of the Republicans' Southern Strategy. Such efforts to suppress the vote are the reason the Voting Rights Act is needed. If left to their own devices, GOP operatives would exclude African-Americans and Hispanics from participating in the electoral franchise as they did in the past. However, the plan is not confined to the South. Minority voters are perceived as 'the enemy' wherever they are because of their propensity to vote for Democrats. Philadelphia's GOP has been behaving like its Southern brethren despite being in the North.

Still, for some people, the Nile is more than a river in Africa. Despite the overwhelmingly disproportionate impact of GOP requests to relocate polling places on black voters in Philadelphia, they will claim it is incidental. Fortunately, there is a smoking gun that proves otherwise. A Republican official admitted race is the reason he wanted to relocate the voting sites.

Race played a role in at least five of the requests, according to Matt Robb, the Republican leader of the 48th ward in South Philadelphia. Robb said he allowed his name to be used because those polling places are in neighborhoods he doesn't wish to visit.

"It's predominantly, 100 percent black," said Robb, who is white. "I'm just not going in there to get a knife in my back."

The polling places are all in political divisions where Democrats hold an overwhelming advantage among registered voters.

Robb offered no evidence to support his claim that visiting a black neighborhood and being stabbed is a given.

Upcoming: An Oklahoma Republican borrows a page from Jesse Helms.

What's the art?

A logo for Rock the Vote, a campaign to urge young people to register and vote.

posted by J. | 4:00 PM

Monday, October 18, 2004  

News: Black voters in Florida, deja vu?

The Boston Globe reports problems that stymied efforts of black Americans to participate in a national election four years ago appear to be recurring this election season. As before, difficulty registering to vote is said to be particularly apparent in Florida, where the incumbent's brother, Jeb Bush, is the governor. Residents of a county with a large population of newly registered African-Americans have confronted election officials about the alleged disparate treatment.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Earlier this month, nearly a dozen African-American ministers and civil rights leaders walked into the Duval County election office here, television cameras in tow, with a list of questions: Why weren't there more early voting sites closer to black neighborhoods? Why were so many blacks not being allowed to redo incomplete voter registrations? Who was deciding all this?

Standing across the office counter under a banner that read "Partners in Democracy" was the man who made those decisions, election chief Dick Carlberg. Visibly angry, the Republican explained why he decided the way he had: "We call it the law."

Black leaders said the scene at the supervisor's office was reminiscent of a blocked schoolhouse door at the height of desegregation. They charge that GOP officials are deliberately using the law to keep black people off the rolls and hinder them from voting.

Four years ago, ballots cast from black neighborhoods throughout Florida were four times as likely to go uncounted as those from white neighborhoods. Nowhere was the disparity more apparent than in Duval County, where 42 percent of 27,000 ballots thrown out came from four heavily Democratic black precincts.

The pre-election practices that have concerned person's riled include election authorities not siting early voting offices in predominantly African-American areas and refusals to allow black registrants to complete faulty initial registrations. During the last four years, registration of black voters has increased by 21 percent. White voter registration has risen by six percent. However, the successful voter registration drive by groups such as America Coming Together can be negated if many of the new registrants are not allowed to vote. Duval County elections workers have failed to process a third of the registrations. They have deemed more than a thousand of them incomplete so far. Since George W. Bush carried the county by only 537 votes in 2000, the outcome there might well be decided by the thousands of potential new voters. But, with a deadline of Oct. 4 to fix incomplete registrations, the impact of the new registrations may be undermined.

In addition to those issues, another has arisen. The state has implemented a new policy some see as a stumbling block for new registrants.

Secretary of State Glenda E. Hood, a Republican appointed by the president's brother, Governor Jeb Bush, recently ruled that for registrations to be deemed complete, new voters must not only sign an oath attesting to their citizenship but also check a box that states the same. Unlike many counties that have chosen to ignore the directive, Duval County chose to enforce it.

The deadline to fix registrations said to be incomplete has passed. It is unknown how many of the registrations not processed will be declared incomplete. Though Jacksonville has the largest land area of any American city, only one early voting site exists there. Minority leaders say the single site is miles away from the areas where they live. It will be closed on Sundays, when some ministers planned to provide transportation to voters.

The big picture does suggest a plan to discourage some voters. Particularly telling is Hood's innovation. It serves no purpose other than adding an additional requirement to the voter registration process. That requirement, checking a box declaring citizenship, is already subsumed in the oath of citizenship. However, it does provide another line for registrants to miss and void their registrations. The requirement is meant to make registering to vote more difficult. In Florida, the times may be deja vu all over again.

posted by J. | 10:00 AM