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WP: Voting Rights Act Is Being “Twisted”

From an outraged Washington Post:

Alleged Voting Rights Violation With Twist Goes to Trial

By Peter Whoriskey
Tuesday, January 16, 2007; A02

MACON, Miss. — Over the years, Ike Brown has earned a reputation in rural Noxubee County as a wily political boss, and his election triumphs have time and again aroused suspicions of impropriety. But talk of his tactics never carried much farther than this small community of sawmills and catfish ponds.

Today, though, Brown, who is African American, is scheduled to go on trial in federal court in Jackson, where he will face charges from the Justice Department that he violated the political rights of Noxubee’s white minority. It is the first time that the 1965 Voting Rights Act has been used to ensure white rights.

About two-thirds of the 8,700 adults in Noxubee County are black, and Brown, the local Democratic committee chief, has been criticized for urging people to "vote black" while engaging in an array of electoral shenanigans.

At issue is whether Brown, 52, has directed "relentless voting-related racial discrimination" against white voters and white candidates through fraudulent election tactics, as federal lawyers say, or whether he was merely operating aggressive political campaigns in a milieu that has long been split along racial lines.

The case is being closely watched, not only for its contrasts to the historic struggle for civil rights here, when the Voting Rights Act was a key legal weapon on behalf of blacks, but for signs of the Bush administration’s commitment to minority issues.

Critics view the case as a symbol of the way that the administration has veered away from the traditional mission of the civil rights division at the Justice Department — eliminating discrimination against African Americans — in favor of reverse discrimination and religious discrimination matters.

"I played tough, but I played fair," Brown said last week. Whites "stole elections from us for decades and nothing was done about it. Now the slightest inconvenience for the establishment is cause for the Justice Department to come down here."

Brown, a lanky single father, has been a figure of political controversy here for years, but not a flashy one. A former tax preparer, he served a prison sentence in the mid-1990s for preparing fraudulent returns. Now, aside from his political work, he also operates a one-man scrap metal business. He makes less than $30,000 annually all told, he says, and his Macon home, in a predominantly white neighborhood, is assessed for $127,000.
Wil Colom, the prominent black Republican lawyer who has taken Brown’s case on a pro bono basis, describes his client and his aggressive tactics as a product of the long and sometimes bitter quest for black representation in Noxubee County.

Brown has run dozens of campaigns here, and Colom traces the fight for black representation in the county to 1971, when, despite the numerical superiority of blacks, no one on the board of supervisors was African American. It was not until the early ’90s that African Americans won a majority of seats. Now, four of the five county supervisors are black.

"Majority rule came to South Africa before it came to Noxubee County," Colom said.

In the battle for political representation, he said, Brown fought like "a guerrilla" and his legal troubles stem now from the fact that he did not recognize that he was now in power and did not build coalitions with those he had vanquished. As a result, Colom said, "whites feel alienated."

Still, he said, "it’s hard for a black person in Ike Brown’s position to stomach somebody complaining about discrimination, considering what’s happened to them."

The federal lawsuit enumerates an array of illegal maneuvers in Noxubee County elections engineered by Brown. They include recruiting ineligible black candidates, excluding whites from Democratic Party meetings, manipulating voter registration rolls and collecting improper absentee ballots, partly through teams of notaries who visit homes to help people vote.

In a 1999 Democratic primary for sheriff, for example, the margin of victory for Brown’s preferred candidate was only five votes. A judge ruled that a new election should be held because 52 ballots, most of them from absentees, were found to be invalid.

Brown, as chairman of the Democratic Executive Committee in the county, did not fulfill the judge’s order, telling the local paper, the Macon Beacon, that someone would have to file a lawsuit to compel him to do so. No one did.

In 2003, Brown recruited a black lawyer to run against the incumbent white county prosecutor, according to the government’s court filings, even though the white lawyer is a Democrat and the black lawyer was ineligible to run in Noxubee because he lived in Jackson. Brown refused to hear the complaints of the prosecutor and dropped the campaign only after a judge ruled against him.

The same year, Brown delivered to the Macon Beacon a list of 170 or so white Republican voters whom he said he would challenge if they tried to vote in the Democratic primary. Critics say he singled out white voters, but Brown indicated that he was only trying to keep Republicans from voting.

Indeed, while federal lawyers link Brown to the racial polarization of county voting, locals on both sides of the divide say race is simply something that politicians in the area have to deal with, and if they choose to, can exploit to their advantage.

"I use rhetoric to try to win, and that may range from saying that, quote, they’re not black enough or it may range to saying that they’re too black to get anything done," Brown has admitted. "It’s just whatever is convenient."

Phillip McGuire, a white jewelry store owner who has been asked to testify, said in a deposition: "You can’t live here without couching some things in terms of race. It’s just . . . you know, Mississippi."

Of course the Washington Post’s outrage is at the Voting Rights Act being used for anything other than advancing leftwing candidates and causes.

In the Post’s eyes there can be no voter fraud conducted by non-whites or liberals.

It simply isn’t possible. The law is being "twisted."

But here is a slightly different take from From the Mississippi Clarion-Ledger:

Noxubee County vote trial opens today

January 16, 2007

Case accuses black leaders of discrimination against white residents

By Jimmie E. Gates

WHAT’S NEXT

The Noxubee County case is set to begin at 9 a.m. today. U.S. District Judge Tom Lee is presiding.

Black political leaders in Noxubee County will try to refute today in federal court the accusations that they violated the Voting Rights Act by discriminating against white voters.

U.S. District Judge Tom Lee will determine the merits of the U.S. Department of Justice’s complaint – the first of its kind in the country, according to department officials, to accuse African Americans of discriminating against white people.

Complaints from white candidates and voters prompted a federal investigation, leading to the civil action.

The lawsuit was filed in February 2005 against the Noxubee County Democratic Executive Committee; its chairman, Ike Brown; and others. But Noxubee County was removed from the lawsuit after officials agreed to a consent decree.

Brown couldn’t be reached for comment Monday but has said the charges are bogus. Brown has said he likes politics and sometimes he plays tough but doesn’t discriminate.

If the lawsuit is successful, Brown and the Noxubee County Democratic Executive Committee could face financial sanctions.

The lawsuit also seeks a preliminary and permanent injunction to stop the defendants from coercing, threatening or intimidating anyone voting or attempting to vote.

In addition to any possible sanctions, the Justice Department asks the court to award plaintiffs the costs of filing the action and to grant any other relief deemed necessary to ensure elections in Noxubee County are conducted in a racially fair manner.

The east-central Mississippi county is 70 percent black.

"It’s just a black-white thing," said Randall Woodson, a white Noxubee County resident. "It has always been this way. Ike Brown controls the Democratic Party in Noxubee County."

Stephanie Robinson, a black Noxubee County resident, said she can’t say one way or the other that white residents have been discriminated against.

"I can say that Noxubee County is 50 years behind everybody else," Robinson said. "We are divided along racial lines."

Robinson said some people may look at it that white residents discriminated against black residents when they were in power in the county and, now that the shoe is on the other foot, they are complaining.

Among the issues the Justice Department said it found in its investigation were:

# Black candidates who do not satisfy residency requirements have been allowed to run in elections in an effort to defeat white candidates for local office.

# White voters have been kept from participating in the Democratic primary, even those legally entitled to vote.

# Absentee ballots cast by white voters have been rejected, while ballots from black voters that contain similar or more serious defects have been accepted.

# White residents have been discriminated against in the selection of people to work at polls and in providing information about the absentee voting process.

# White candidates have been blocked from viewing the tabulation of ballots, while black candidates have been allowed to do so.

# Black residents have been allowed to violate restrictions against campaigning at the polls.

Funny how the Washington Post left out some of the pesky charges.

This article was posted by Steve Gilbert on Tuesday, January 16th, 2007. Comments are currently closed.

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