In a case that marked the federal government’s first use of the Voting Rights Act to accuse African-Americans of discriminating against white voters, a judge on Monday ordered a Mississippi county Democratic Party and its chairman to forgo election activities until 2011.
Under his order, a “referee-administrator” will have full authority over the party’s primary and runoff elections through November 2011. The job went to former state Supreme Court justice Reuben Anderson, the first African-American to serve on the high court in Mississippi.
In June, the mostly black-run Noxubee County Democratic Executive Committee (NDEC) and Chairman Ike Brown, who is black, were found to have discriminated against white voters and their candidates by fixing absentee ballots and ignoring residency requirements.
[U.S. District Judge Tom] Lee detailed in a lengthy June opinion how Brown orchestrated election activities so he could retain power. He called Brown dishonest and conniving, finding that he and party committee members schemed to disenfranchise white voters and dilute their voting strength.
“The court is convinced that Ike Brown, and the NDEC under his leadership, have engaged in racially motivated manipulation of the electoral process . . . to the detriment of white voters,” he wrote.
The case prompted debate over whether the Justice Department is distorting the intent behind the law in a state where black residents have shouldered a history of discrimination. Lee said that although white voters have not faced discrimination in the past, they are still prone to doubt a system they don’t believe is open.