Black leaders protest “stolen” victory

WASHINGTON, The Baltimore Sun

The nation’s top black leaders Wednesday questioned the legitimacy of Texas Gov. George W. Bush’s expected presidential victory, saying it was secured by the U.S. Supreme Court and not by the voters.

“He will be president legally. But he does not have moral authority, because his crown did not come from the people. It came from the judges,” the Rev. Jesse Jackson said on CNN after leading a rally of hundreds of blacks and union members in Tallahassee.

Blacks voted for Gore by a 9-1 margin, according to various analyses after the election.

Jackson said 18,000 ballots cast by blacks were thrown out in Duval County because those voters mistakenly cast ballots for two candidates for president. They followed a sample ballot in a local newspaper that was different from the one in the booth, he said.

Thousands of other black voters around the state found their names were missing from the voting rolls, Jackson said, while broken voting machines in other counties failed to count votes.

“Well, many people feel it’s stolen. They feel robbed. They feel disenfranchised,” the civil rights leader said. “So there is a sense in which people were targeted and that there was a systematic, planned disenfranchisement of people.”

Kweisi Mfume, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), echoed those concerns later in a telephone interview with reporters. Asked about Bush’s legitimacy as president, Mfume said: “That remains to be seen. In the minds of a lot of voters, they may see this future president in lacking the kind of legitimacy we afford to presidents. … I’m not sure legitimacy is something Mr. Bush ever gains.”

Both men said that efforts by news organizations and other groups to recount the estimated 45,000 undercounted ballots — those kicked out by machines without recording a vote for president — could reverse Bush’s victory in Florida.

Officials in that state have said there was no evidence of an organized or deliberate effort to deny blacks of their right to vote. Still, Mfume said the NAACP believes there was “voter suppression and voter intimidation” there and will press the Justice Department and the FBI in the next administration to investigate. Such a move, said Mfume, will “move (Bush) closer to acceptance.”

“What happened in black precincts in black neighborhoods this election shouldn’t happen again,” Mfume said.

Like other black officials and Democratic leaders, Mfume said he was “extremely disappointed” in the U.S. Supreme Court decision which reversed a Florida court decision to begin a manual ballot recount. That opinion was repeated by black lawmakers in Congress.

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., an Illinois Democrat, son of the civil rights leader, called the Supreme Court “a willing tool of the Bush campaign.”

Rep. Alcee Hastings, a Florida Democrat, said the court’s ruling “leaves a stain on democracy.” Of Bush’s claim to the presidency, he said, “The people are going to be left saying, ‘I am not certain this guy won the election.’ “

Another Florida Democrat, Rep. Carrie Meek, agreed. “Black voters, if I may speak for them, I don’t see them supporting George Bush in any way. I will respect him, and I will work with him, but I don’t think that (extends) to my constituents.”

Not all black leaders were willing to question Bush’s legitimacy.

Rep. Charlie Rangel, a New York Democrat, was asked if the country can come together after the divisive election. “I hope so. A lot of it will depend on the next president,” Rangel said. “He will have to make extraordinary efforts to be bipartisan.”