Are Folks Still Messing with the Black Vote in Mississippi?

(Justin Sullivan/Getty)
(Justin Sullivan/Getty)
In a brutal Deep South Republican primary runoff the establishment candidate’s campaign is asking black Democratic voters to break the law to fight off the Tea Party.
Fifty years after the Freedom Summer, black voters in Mississippi are expected to face challenges once again when they go to vote in the Republican Senate runoff between six-term incumbent Thad Cochran and Tea Party challenger Chris McDaniel. In a state with perhaps the most complex and ugliest history of racism in the union, one that has become a symbol of all that is wrong and backwards with the United States, African Americans still have to worry when they show up to vote Tuesday, but it’s much more complicated this time.

Some had thought that the campaign between Cochran and McDaniel had gotten weird when a McDaniel supporter broke into the nursing home of Cochran’s wifeand videotaped her but that turned out to be just a precursor to what has turned out to be one of the strangest campaigns since Goat Glands Brinkley ran for Governor of Kansas in the 1930s. The runoff has turned into a macabre political sideshow filled with grotesque attacks and ugly accusations.

It has reached a pinnacle with the efforts by the Cochran campaign to woo Democrats, particularly African Americans, in the racially polarized Magnolia State to vote in the runoff.  The hope was that Democrats would prefer the establishment Republican who tries to bring federal money to the state rather than the small government zealot who, while he might be far more vulnerable toDemocratic challenger Travis Childers, would still be likely to be elected if he receives the GOP nomination.

The problem is that Mississippi, which doesn’t have voter registration by party, has a statute that prohibits people from voting in a party primary if they don’t intend to vote for that party’s nominee. However, save an outright declaration of intent or the ability of an election judge to read minds, it’s hard to determine voter intent months in advance.

While the Cochran campaign is appealing to black voters, conservatives are on guard. J. Christian Adams, a former DOJ lawyer, has taken charge of “a poll observer program designed to bring transparency to the process” on behalf of outside conservative groups. Adams noted that, contrary to the claims of liberal observers, having poll watchers monitor for potential Democrats voting was not “voter intimidation” under the law. Adams noted that a federal court made a ruling upholding the constitutionality of this very statute in a case where he represented the federal government. In that nearly 10-year-old case, the Bush Justice Department was trying to go after a black political boss named Ike Brown who was publishing the names of whites whom he thought were Republicans in the local paper in Noxubee County, Mississippi. The idea was that publishing their names would discourage them from voting in the Democratic primary in the rural majority minority county. While Brown was eventually found guilty of systematic discrimination against white voters, the court found that publishing the names did not amount to voter intimidation under the law. Adams cited this as precedent for his efforts.

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SOURCE: Daily Beast

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