NEW YORK - A group of prominent African-Americans has
the electoral victory of Republican President-elect George W. Bush
ballot exercise marked by numerous charges of selective
Denouncing what they described as ''massive voting
irregularities'' in the
November polls, eight prominent black leaders have vowed to
contest two of Bush's cabinet nominations, to protest his
inauguration on Jan.
20, and to pursue comprehensive electoral reform in the courts and
A ''national emergency summit'' was announced for Thursday at
in Washington, which will involve the National Association for the
of Coloured People, the Nation of Islam, the National Urban
League, and other
leading African American groups.
''The Center for Constitutional Rights is committed to opposing
of this regime, which was born of the disenfranchisement of
millions of people
in this country,'' said Ron Daniels, the Center's executive
organised a panel Tuesday at a forum titled 'From Protest to
''It is our duty to resist,'' said Daniels, calling for a broad-
on Jan. 20 - the date of President-elect Bush's inauguration - at
of the crime, the Supreme Court of the United States''.
Rev. Al Sharpton, whose National Action Network is also organising
inauguration'', said the march would not solve the problem, but it
''dramatically show the world that we're not suffering from
''Some say that it's over, that it's time to move on,'' he said,
At Tuesday's event at the National Press Club, panellists cited
evidence that large numbers of African Americans had their ballots
because of confusing instructions and faulty voting equipment - or
discouraged from voting at all.
In Florida, nearly 10,000 ballots cast by heavily Democratic-
voters were disqualified. These spoiled ballots had a crucial
impact on the
election since Bush won Florida by a mere 537 votes, and winning
him the presidency under the electoral college system, even though
he lost the
''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
prominent African American journalist.
A partial analysis by the Washington Post recently found that the
not limited to Florida.
Black areas of Alabama, for example, had one in every 16 ballots
to errors, while the invalidation rate for black neighbourhoods in
Illinois rose to one in six - much, much higher than the rates in
precincts. Both places were using old-fashioned machines that
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
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
Other problems cited in the November election included confusion
registration rolls and polling places, police harassment, and the
misclassification of thousands of people as convicted felons, who
from voting in many states.
Speakers at the meeting also expressed grave concern over the
former Missouri Senator John Ashcroft for attorney-general, a key
In 1998, Ashcroft told an extremist publication called Southern
''your magazine also helps set the record straight. You've got a
doing that, of defending southern patriots like [Robert E.] Lee,
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,
be taught that these people were giving their lives, subscribing
fortunes and their honour to some perverted agenda'' - meaning
Southern Partisan has described David Duke, a former Klansman who
made a bid
for the US Senate, as ''a Populist spokesperson for a recapturing
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
aggressively lobbying Democratic lawmakers - who currently make up
Senate - to vote against confirmation.
Another contested nomination is that of Christine Todd Whitman,
New Jersey, to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Whitman
a massive police racism scandal, prompting Al Sharpton to refer to
her as the
''queen of racial profiling''.
''At a time when we espouse the values of democracy around the
tolerate the dishonest and chicanery to suppress the vote of
citizens,'' said Rev. Walter Fauntroy, a former congressman for
Columbia and president of the National Black Leadership
''We have a challenge as people of conscience to move this nation
principles that we enunciate but failed to live up to on Nov. 7,''
In addition to the ''Day of Resistance'' on Jan. 20, Fauntroy said
would be made to get out the vote in upcoming legislative races.
expected the public airing of voter complaints before the federal
Commission headed by Mary Frances Berry, a push for uniform voting
and ongoing lawsuits.
In a discussion of alternatives to the current winner-take-all
University Professor and syndicated columnist Manning Marable
''instant run-off voting'', in which voters indicate a second
choice on the
ballot. If no candidate receives 50 percent, the candidates with
votes are knocked off and their votes reassigned to the two front-
''It would not require a constitutional amendment,'' Prof. Marable
''You can vote for the person you want, and not end up with the
the most'' - a reference to Ralph Nader supporters handing the
Other speakers included Laura Murphy, executive director of the
bureau of the American Civil Liberties Union, Dr. Ramona Edelin,
director of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, and
executive director of the National Newspaper Publishers
nation's only black wire service.
''We tend to take our own oppression for granted,'' Jealous said.
commitment is to make sure that black young people understand that
we won this
Copyright 2001 InterPress Service