Posted on August 6, 2004

Kerry Stresses Government’s Role in Helping Minorities

Jim VandeHei, Washington Post, Aug. 5

John F. Kerry today said entertainer Bill Cosby’s recent admonition that black Americans need to take greater personal responsibility for poor education and high crime was “excessively exclusive” and ignored the government’s role in helping minorities.

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In his speech, and the question-and-answer session that followed, Kerry made a strong appeal to minority groups, both with promises to run a more inclusive White House and pledges to fund federal programs targeting every group from Native Americans to veterans from the Philippines. He even promised to fight to increase the number of minorities in prominent media jobs, which government has no control over.

The Democratic nominee said he is the candidate who feels the pain of minorities. “I am also aware—how can you live in America and not be aware?—of the special challenges facing people of color.” As president, Kerry promised a mixture of affirmative action, government spending and meetings with minority groups to end racial imbalances.

In one of his biggest applause lines, he also said every black vote would count in future elections. In 2000, many black voters were denied the right to vote as a result of breakdowns in the registration and vote-counting systems. “The harsh fact now is that in the last election more than 1 million African-Americans were disenfranchised in one of the most tainted elections in history.”

Read the rest of this story here.

Keeping The Lie Alive

John Kerry has made the [remarkable] statement numerous times that “one million African-Americans were disenfranchised in 2000.” Since “mainstream” journalists appear reluctant to push Kerry on the “evidence” of his claim (even “minority” journalists to whom Kerry most recently made the charge), it looks like it’s up to stalwart John Rosenberg once again:

Perhaps a place to start would be an explanation of what he means by “disenfranchisement.” For example, I’m not sure that a person who doesn’t vote because the registration line is too long should be recorded as a “lost vote.” Does Sen. Kerry think that non-voter was “disenfranchised”? Can one “disenfranchise” oneself by not voting or by improperly marking a ballot? Charging that over a million blacks were “disenfranchised” sounds like a charge that there was a massive, nationwide violation of the Voting Rights Act. Does Sen. Kerry believe that was the case?

My guess is that Kerry would say there was not such a nationwide violation, but he’d phrase it in such a way that one could believe there indeed was.

Be sure to read John’s examination of “lost votes” in the 2000 election, as well as his dissection of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights’ findings on same.

UPDATE: Oh, That Liberal Media reader John Matthews wrote to OTLM with a letter he sent to the WaPo ombudsman regarding their coverage of this Kerry claim (you can read it here). He also sent me an e-mail which gives more detail to the “one million disenfranchised” claim: “The creator of the 1 million blacks disenfranchised statement is Greg Palast. You may know of him,” he says.

Yep, I’ve heard of him, alright. A comment on a post I made at OTLM said that Palast “has been maligned but not contradicted.” Is that so? Matthews provides just such a contradiction:

This (Palast’s claim) ignores a whole host of reasons that may have contributed to higher spoilage rates in certain counties including literacy rates, voter error and standard machine error (which can’t possibly discriminate based on race).

Dr. John Lott conducted a precinct-level analysis of disqualified ballots in Florida for USA Today that took into account data from 1996 and 2000 as well as demographic information. Lott found that a rise in a county’s black population over time did not result in a similar rise in the rate of ballot spoilage, suggesting that race was not the causal factor at work.

(Ironically, Lott also discovered that the group most affected by ballot disqualification in Florida in 2000 was not African-American Democrats, but African-American Republicans. Though obviously a smaller percentage of the black voting population, they were 50 times more likely to have their ballot thrown out in 2000. Go figure.)

Palast’s ridiculous charge of a “apartheid vote-counting system” with partisan motivations also crumbles when one stops to point out the obvious: the officials in charge of the counties in Florida that experienced the highest rates of spoilage were Democrats, and in some cases African-American Democrats. (Emphasis mine.)

In addition, Abigail Thernstrom and Russell Redenbaugh wrote in dissent to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission report:

The majority report lays the blame for the supposed “disenfranchisement” of black voters at the feet of state officials—particularly Governor Jeb Bush and Secretary of State Katherine Harris. In fact, however, elections in Florida are the responsibility of 67 county supervisors of election. And, interestingly, in all but one of the 25 counties with the highest spoilage rates, the election was supervised by a Democrat—the one exception being an official with no party affiliation.

The majority report argues that much of the spoiled ballot problem was due to voting technology. But elected Democratic Party officials decided on the type of machinery used, including the optical scanning system in Gadsden County, the state’s only majority-black county and the one with the highest spoilage rate.