MACON, Miss.—In overwhelmingly black and Democratic Noxubee County, Miss., everybody knows local Democratic Party Chairman Ike Brown.
Officials at the U.S. Justice Department know Brown too; they’re suing him. Using the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the government has alleged that Brown and local elections officials discriminated against whites. It is the first time the Justice Department has ever claimed that whites suffered discrimination in voting because of race.
“When I read the letter, it was junk, you know, bogus,” Brown told ABC News.
The Justice Department says Brown and local elections officials disenfranchised whites—challenging their voting status, rejecting their absentee ballots and telling voters to choose candidates according to race.
Brown says he has merely tried to keep white Republicans from voting in Democratic primaries. He says the lawuit is all political—an attempt to discredit him because the Democratic Party in eastern Mississippi has been doing so well at bringing new voters to the polls, which may mean someday soon that Mississippi, a red state, could turn blue.
Brown is unapologetic.
He says some local white Democrats aren’t “true” Democrats.
“We support the black candidates because we’re sure they’re going to vote in the liberal interest,” Brown said.
On Main Street, whites express a different sentiments: “I think Ike Brown is a racist,” said a white man.
“I think we’re getting a little dose of our ancestors’ medicine, if you want to know the truth,” said another.
Those ghosts from civil rights battles past have never left Noxubee County, and they continue to influence the way the case against Brown is viewed. But guilty or innocent, the Justice Department wants this case to be about Brown, not the state’s historical disenfranchisement of black voters.