Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Remember, Everybody Matters' Black Voters Disenfranchised, Jackson Claims

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Remember, Everybody Matters' Black Voters Disenfranchised, Jackson Claims

Article excerpt

Saying that "African-Americans were targeted to be disenfranchised," the Rev. Jesse Jackson preached to congregants at a Jacksonville church yesterday, urging them to report voting irregularities in Duval County.

"The department of justice should have been here the very first day, not to determine the outcome but to protect our rights," Jackson said to a roaring crowd of about 200 people.

Hours before Jackson addressed the crowd, the Justice Department announced that two representatives have been sent to Florida to investigate complaints that black people and other minorities were impeded by voting officials when they tried to cast ballots. The department did not say which counties were being examined.

The Justice Department has authority to bring criminal prosecution against anyone who denies someone's right to vote. The department also can bring civil lawsuits in some circumstances to alter racially discriminatory voting procedures in the future. But it has no authority for any action that might change voting totals from the Nov. 7 election.

Jackson criticized Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush and chastised county election supervisors for withholding information about voting irregularities, but the focus of his speech was repeated pleas for Jacksonville residents to demand their votes be counted.

An estimated 22,000 ballots were discarded in Duval County for overvoting, the highest number of any county in the state.

"We can lose an election, but not our franchise," said Jackson, executive director of the Rainbow Push Coalition. "Your vote in Jacksonville matters."

As Jackson spoke, about a dozen Bush supporters outside protested the civil rights leader's visit to the Abyssinia Missionary Baptist Church. One protestor was a young child who carried a sign that read: "Even I can punch the Palm Beach ballot."

Inside, U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., accused local election officials of shenanigans to prevent black votes from counting.

She cited a discrepancy between the ballots sent out as a sample and those used on election day that may have caused African-Americans to overvote and have their ballots nullified. …

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