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I'm no voting rights expert, but can it really be illegal to recruit a black candidate to run a against a white because he's white? [not clear that this is actually part of the DOJ complaint.] And can it really be illegal, as the Justice Department complaint reportedly says, to "participate[] in numerous racial appeals during primary and general campaigns and criticize[] black citizens for supporting white candidates and for forming biracial political coalitions with white candidates." And if the Voting Rights Act does make recruiting candidates and making racial appeals illegal, doesn't it violate the First Amendment?

Thanks to reader Ryan Walters for the tip.

Paul A'Barge (mail):
David, is there a link?
5.3.2006 11:05am
Tennessean (mail):
Are you only going off of the news story linked in your post? Because that story, as is obvious to anyone who reads it, does not say what you are claiming it says (note, of course, the chastising handed out yesterday).
5.3.2006 11:09am
Paul Gowder (mail):
The story suggests that he used "intimidation" and "coercion," and implicates a clerk in tampering with absentee ballots (impliedly at Brown's direction, though the story is so poorly written it's hard to tell).

The real problem is that, as I just said, the article is terribly written. It doesn't distinguish between the complaints of political opponents (Walker: "Waaah, waaah, bad Mr. Brown recruited a black guy to run against me.") and the actual allegations of the litigation.
5.3.2006 11:18am
J..:
I've never encountered the VRA, but doesn't it enforce the 15th Amendment?

Here is the complaint and a brief blub about the case from Justice:

In this complaint, the United States alleges that the practices of local election and party officials discriminate against whites in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. This is the first case filed by the Department of Justice in which it alleges that whites are being subjected to discrimination in voting on the basis of their race. Further, it is alleged that officials have coerced, threatened, and intimidated voters in violation of Section 11(b) of the Act. The United States entered in a consent decree with the Noxubee County superintendent of general elections, administrator of absentee ballots, registrar, and the county government. The consent decree prohibits a wide range of discriminatory and illegal voting practices, and requires these officials to report such incidents if they receive information that they are continuing. This consent decree was approved by the district court and filed simultaneously with the filing of the complaint. The remaining defendants who are Noxubee County Election Commission and the local Democratic Executive Commission and its chairman did not enter the consent decree, and litigation of the claims will follow.

DOJ page
5.3.2006 11:19am
J..:
I'm not a VRA expert by any means, but doesn't it enforce the 15th Amendment?

Here is the complaint and a brief blub about the case from Justice:

In this complaint, the United States alleges that the practices of local election and party officials discriminate against whites in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. This is the first case filed by the Department of Justice in which it alleges that whites are being subjected to discrimination in voting on the basis of their race. Further, it is alleged that officials have coerced, threatened, and intimidated voters in violation of Section 11(b) of the Act. The United States entered in a consent decree with the Noxubee County superintendent of general elections, administrator of absentee ballots, registrar, and the county government. The consent decree prohibits a wide range of discriminatory and illegal voting practices, and requires these officials to report such incidents if they receive information that they are continuing. This consent decree was approved by the district court and filed simultaneously with the filing of the complaint. The remaining defendants who are Noxubee County Election Commission and the local Democratic Executive Commission and its chairman did not enter the consent decree, and litigation of the claims will follow.

DOJ page
5.3.2006 11:19am
SLS 1L:
I'm not willing to find and read the complaint at this hour, but the story talks about "intimidation and coercion" and an agreement to toss out white voters' absentee ballots on technicalities while accepting those of black voters. Those sound like legitimate allegations to me.
5.3.2006 11:34am
Eric Rasmusen1 (mail):
I just skimmed the complaint and consent decree (from 2005, but it seems to be this case) at:

http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/voting/litigation/recent_sec2.htm

The Consent Decree is fine-- it blocks obviously bad behavior, which looks like it would be illegal even aside from any racial angle-- but the Complaint is bad.

See its section e, which indeed, as the new article claims, says that Justice complains about racial appeals. This is complaint about pure speech, not misbehavior. If the consent decree had covered that part of the complaint, it would have had to enjoin the defendants from making appeals to racial solidarity.
5.3.2006 12:36pm
Eric Rasmusen1 (mail):
ps. -- the news article *did* get the candidate-recruiting part wrong. The complaint was about recruiting candidates who did not qualify because they failed the residency requirements (though it says a desire to recruit black candidates was the motive for the law being violated).
5.3.2006 12:37pm
johnt (mail):
At first glance it does appear as a "what's good for the goose is good for the gander" situation . Or in another variant," the mop flops both ways". Illegal recruiting, discriminatory ballot counting, tough darts Ike, you can't have it your way all the time.
5.3.2006 12:58pm