I can’t identify too many threads that connect every single election I’ve ever covered. But one feature has been a constant through every election I’ve seen up close, from New York City Council elections to mayor to governor to senator to president: efforts to suppress the black vote, and, often enough, the Latino vote. I’ve seen the fliers, heard the robocalls, been at the polling places with the mysterious malfunctioning machines. No one ever knows exactly who does these things, and yet everyone generally knows. Republicans. And now we may be getting some proof. Former Florida GOP chairman Jim Greer said for the first time on national television Thursday—to Al Sharpton, no less!—that his party is up to its neck in denying citizens the right to vote.
Greer—and I should say up front he’s under indictment; more on that later—was deposed by lawyers for the state GOP in late May for a civil case that will likely be heard after his criminal trial. He was specific. At a December 2009 meeting, “the political consultants and staff were talking about voter suppression and keeping blacks from voting.” They also discussed—and this is lovely—how “minority-outreach programs were not fit for the Republican Party.” But with Sharpton, he really cut loose: “There’s no doubt that what the Republican-led legislature in Florida and Governor Scott are trying to do is make sure the Republican Party has an advantage in this upcoming election by reducing early voting and putting roadblocks up for potential voters, Latinos, African-Americans to register and then to exercise their right to vote. There’s no doubt. I was in the room. It’s part of the strategy.”
He also shot down the rationale for the new Florida law, this ginned-up “voter fraud” business: “In three and a half years as chairman in Florida, I never had one meeting where voter fraud was discussed as a real issue effecting elections. Never one time…It’s a marketing tool. That’s clearly what it is. There’s no validity to it. We never had issues with it. The main purpose behind it is to make sure that what happened in 2008 never happens again.”
The party’s current leaders, whom for good measure he called “whack-a-doo, right-wing crazies,” say he’s lying, and naturally they note that his credibility is open to question. He’s accused of funneling party money to himself, about $125,000. He’ll stand trial sometime this fall. Obviously, we don’t know whether he’s guilty of that. But we do know that in every single election in this country where the black vote matters, these mysterious things happen in African-American neighborhoods in the run-up to the election and on Election Day itself. We never know exactly who does it, but it’s pretty self-evident that it isn’t Democrats.
Conservative pundits like to whine from time to time about how blacks “reflexively” or “unthinkingly” pull the Democratic lever. Well, what exactly do they expect? Yes, yes, some Republicans in Congress supported the civil-rights and voting-rights acts. Fine. But those Republicans don’t exist anymore. The racists left the Democrats and joined the GOP, and that’s when—in the late 1960s—these voter-suppression efforts began.
The more you wrap your mind around it, the more astonishing the moral deficiency becomes. Think about it. Every election come the warnings that if you haven’t paid your telephone bill yet or what have you, you won’t be permitted to vote. Something that like, which I saw all the time in New York City, can be pulled off by a handful of ne’er-do-wells, and the party leaders themselves can maintain plausible deniability.
But what’s going on around the country this year requires the assent of officialdom. This is a conspiracy of thousands of people, Republican Party operatives in every state in the country (except those where the black vote is small enough not to matter), all of them agreeing that denying the most fundamental civic right to a group of citizens because they vote the wrong way is a good idea—and knowing that they can get away with it because, after all, it’s “just” “those people.” Imagine that Democrats had decided to proceed along these lines in America’s rural precincts. Something tells me that the country’s great law-enforcement agencies and media institutions would have managed to get to the bottom of it then—and that the Democratic Party would have ended up all but destroyed.
Just lately, John Fund and Hans von Spakovsky have been promoting their new book claiming to document vast treachery at the polls. The meme has developed on the right in the last few days that felons elected Al Franken to the Senate. Hennepin County (Minneapolis) Attorney Mike Freeman rebutted their charges this week. I can’t swear that Freeman is correct, but look—that was the most contested and pored-over election recount in the modern history of this country. It took nine months to determine the winner. Does it really seem likely that if massive fraud existed, state election officials (representing both major parties, by the way) weren’t able to ferret it out in nine months?
It’s a sick and sickening situation, and it delegitimizes everything else about the Republican Party. I can understand how someone believes in limited government or low taxes. I can understand how someone could oppose affirmative action. I cannot understand how any individual can be anything other than abjectly ashamed to be associated with a political party so thuggish as to try to rig elections like this and then at its conventions have the gall to invoke Abraham Lincoln and hire lots of black people to sing and dance and smile, to make up for their absence among the attendees. A black mark indeed.
By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, August 13, 2012
“A Systematic Effort”: Florida’s Former GOP Chair Says The Party Had Meetings About “Keeping Blacks From Voting”
In the debate over new laws meant to curb voter fraud in places like Florida, Democrats always charge that Republicans are trying to suppress the vote of liberal voting blocs like blacks and young people, while Republicans just laugh at such ludicrous and offensive accusations. That is, every Republican except for Florida’s former Republican Party chairman Jim Greer, who, scorned by his party and in deep legal trouble, blew the lid off what he claims was a systemic effort to suppress the black vote. In a 630-page deposition recorded over two days in late May, Greer, who is on trial for corruption charges, unloaded a litany of charges against the “whack-a-do, right-wing crazies” in his party, including the effort to suppress the black vote.
In the deposition, released to the press yesterday, Greer mentioned a December 2009 meeting with party officials. “I was upset because the political consultants and staff were talking about voter suppression and keeping blacks from voting,” he said, according to the Tampa Bay Times. He also said party officials discussed how “minority outreach programs were not fit for the Republican Party,” according to the AP.
The comments, if true (he is facing felony corruption charges and has an interest in scorning his party), would confirm what critics have long suspected. Florida Gov. Rick Scott is currently facing inquiries from the Justice Department and pressure from civil rights groups over his purging of voter rolls in the state, an effort that critics say has disproportionately targeted minorities and other Democratic voters. One group suing the state claims up to 87 percent of the voters purged from the rolls so far have been people of color, though other estimates place that number far lower. Scott has defended the purge, even though he was erroneously listed as dead himself on the rolls in 2006.
As Vanity Fair noted in a big 2004 story on the Sunshine State’s voting problems, “Florida is a state with a history of disenfranchising blacks.” In the state’s notoriously botched 2000 election, the state sent a list of 50,000 alleged ex-felons to the counties, instructing them to purge those names from their rolls. But it turned out that list included 20,000 innocent people, 54 percent of whom were black, the magazine reported. Just 15 percent of the state’s population is black. There were also reports that polling stations in black neighborhoods were understaffed, leading to long lines that kept some people from voting that year. The NAACP and ACLU sued the state over that purge. A Gallup poll in December of 2000 found that 68 percent of African-Americans nationally felt black voters were less likely to have their votes counted fairly in Florida.
Former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, who has since become an independent and is rumored to be considering his next run as a Democrat, wrote an Op-Ed in the Washington Post recently slamming Scott’s current purge. “Including as many Americans as possible in our electoral process is the spirit of our country. It is why we have expanded rights to women and minorities but never legislated them away, and why we have lowered the voting age but never raised it. Cynical efforts at voter suppression are driven by an un-American desire to exclude as many people and silence as many voices as possible,” he wrote. A recent study from the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School found that voter ID laws disproportionately affect poor, minority and elderly voters.
By: Alec Seitz-Wald, Salon, July 27, 2012