Georgia's Fraudulent Anti-Fraud Legislation
by Julian Bond
November 23, 2005
WASHINGTON (NNPA) - What is it with some people?
Why do they persist in believing racial minorities are
inveterate cheaters at the polls? What kind of racist
criminal profiling takes place in their minds?
Now comes Georgia State Rep. Sue Burmesiter (R-Augusta)
telling the United States Department of Justice that if
Black people in her district "are not paid to vote,
they don't go to the polls."
She predicted that if a restrictive law she proposed
was adopted, fewer Blacks would vote because her
measure would end Black voting fraud. Although
Georgia's Secretary of State testified there was not
widespread fraud in Georgia, the Republican-dominated
legislature overwhelmingly passed Burmesiter's bill.
Fortunately, a federal judge suspended the law's
requirement of expensive photo identifications. He
agreed with civil rights organizations that charged the
law imposed an unconstitutional poll tax. But Georgia's
Gov. 'Sonny" Perdue says he still supports the law
despite claims that it would adversely affect racial
Rep. Burmesiter, unfortunately, isn't alone - many
others behave in every election as if they are the only
barrier between honest elections and Black voters bent
on fraudulent, dishonest ways to steal elections.
In electoral contest after contest, in states scattered
across the country, they've employed so-called "ballot
security programs" to halt an anticipated flood of
criminally-minded African-Americans from casting
In both Florida and Ohio in 2004, for example, GOP
operatives threatened to monitor Black precincts to
insure the sanctity of the presidential contest. No
such precinct police were employed to guard White
polling places. Those voters presumably enjoyed a
racial exemption from suspicion of felonious behavior.
A 2004 report issued by People for the America Way
(PFAW) and the National Association for the Advancement
of Colored People (NAACP) listed numerous examples of
intimidation and voter suppression efforts aimed at
Among the report's findings:
The use in the Orlando, Fla. area of armed,
plainclothes officers from the Florida Department of
Law Enforcement (FDLE) to question elderly Black voters
in their homes.
In Florida in 2004, the state ordered the
implementation of a "potential felon" purge list to
remove voters from the rolls, in a disturbing echo of
the infamous 2000 purge, that removed thousands of
eligible voters, primarily African-Americans, from the
rolls. The state abandoned the plan after news media
investigations revealed that the 2004 list also
included thousands of people who were eligible to vote,
and heavily targeted African-Americans while virtually
ignoring Hispanic voters.
Michigan state Rep. John Pappageorge (R-Troy) was
quoted in the Detroit Free Press in 2004 as saying, "If
we do not suppress the Detroit vote, we're going to
have a tough time in this election." African-Americans
comprise 83 percent of Detroit's population.
In South Dakota's June 2004 primary, Native American
voters were prevented from voting after they were
challenged to provide photo IDs, which they were not
required to present under state or federal law.
In Kentucky in July 2004, Black Republican officials
joined to ask their State GOP party chairman to
renounce plans to place "vote challengers" in African-
American precincts during the coming elections.
In Texas, a local district attorney claimed that
students at a majority Black college were not eligible
to vote in the county where the school is located. It
happened in Waller County - the same county where 26
years earlier, a federal court order was required to
prevent discrimination against the students.
In 2003 in Philadelphia, voters in African American
areas were systematically challenged by men carrying
clipboards, driving a fleet of some 300 sedans with
magnetic signs designed to look like law enforcement
In 2002 in Louisiana, flyers were distributed in
African American communities telling voters they could
go to the polls on Tuesday,
December 10th - three days after a Senate runoff
election was actually held.
In 1998 in South Carolina, a state representative
mailed 3,000 brochures to African American
neighborhoods, claiming that law enforcement agents
would be "working" the election, and warning voters
that "this election is not worth going to jail."
As the PFAW/NAACP report details, voter intimidation
and suppression is not a problem limited to the
southern United States. It takes place from California
to New York, Texas to Illinois. It isn't the province
of a single political party, although patterns of
intimidation have changed as the party allegiances of
minority communities have changed.
Over the past two decades, the Republican Party has
launched a series of "ballot security" and "voter
integrity" initiatives that have have targeted minority
communities. At least three times, these initiatives
were successfully challenged in federal courts as
illegal attempts to suppress voter participation based
The first was a 1981 case in New Jersey which protested
the use of armed guards to challenge Hispanic and
African-American voters, and exposed a scheme to
disqualify voters using mass mailings of outdated voter
lists. The case resulted in a consent decree
prohibiting efforts to target voters by race.
Six years later, similar "ballot security" efforts were
launched against minority voters in Louisiana, Georgia,
Missouri, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Indiana.
Republican National Committee documents said the
Louisiana program alone would "eliminate at least 60-
80,000 folks from the rolls," again drawing a court
And just three years later in North Carolina, the state
Republican Party, the Helms for Senate Committee and
others sent postcards to 125,000 voters, 97 percent of
whom were African-American, giving them false
information about voter eligibility and warning of
criminal penalties for voter fraud - again resulting in
a decree against the use of race to target voters.
These incidents and others were explained away in 2004 as normal legal partisan activity, aimed at helping one party and hurting another.
But there's nothing 'legal' about intimidating minority
voters away from exercising their constitutional
Unfortunately, at least for some people, it is all too
Julian Bond has been Chairman of the NAACP Board of
Directors since February 1998. He is a Distinguished
Scholar in the School of Government at American
University in Washington, DC, and a Professor of
History at the University of Virginia.