Saturday, June 30, 2007 9:16 PM CDT
In a nationally historic case, a federal judge Friday ruled the Noxubee County Democratic Party, its chairman Ike Brown, and the Noxubee County Election Commission violated the rights of white voters, white candidates and their supporters.
The lawsuit, brought by the U.S. Justice Department in February of 2005, is the first to use the 1965 Voting Rights Act on behalf of whites.
Brown was accused of trying to limit whites' participation in local elections in violation of the Voting Rights Act, which was written to protect racial minorities when segregation was enforced by Southern states.
About six months after a two-week trial on the case, U.S. District Judge Tom S. Lee ruled Brown and the Noxubee County Democratic Executive Committee “manipulated the political process in ways specifically intended and designed to impair and impede participation of white voters and to dilute their votes.”
In his ruling, Lee gave both sides until July 29 to present recommendations on preventing future discrimination.
The lawsuit is a civil matter, so no criminal penalties will be assessed. However, either side faces fines and contempt of court charges, if Lee's mandate is not adhered to.
Asked Saturday if he planned to resign his position or appeal the decision, Brown declined to respond.
But he indicated his goals, which he reportedly earlier said were to keep Republicans from voting in Democratic elections, have been addressed by an earlier federal ruling.
“Judge Pepper already said everything that needed to be said,” Brown commented, referring to a June 8 ruling by U.S. District Judge Allen Pepper stipulating political parties could control who is eligible to vote in their primary elections.
In response to a lawsuit filed by the Mississippi Democratic Party Executive Committee, Pepper ordered the state to again register all voters, and Mississippians must, for the first time, declare themselves a Democrat, Republican or independent.
Only voters aligned with a particular party may vote in that party's primary elections.
Brown's attorney, Wilbur Colom of Columbus, could not be reached for comment.
“Every American has the right to vote free from racial discrimination,” Wan J. Kim, assistant attorney general for the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, said of Lee's decision. “The court's ruling is another victory in the department's vigorous efforts to protect the voting rights of all Americans.”
About 70 percent of Noxubee County's population - about 12,500 residents - is black.
The county's prosecuting attorney, Ricky Walker, who is white, earlier said Brown recruited an opponent to run against him in 2003 simply because of his race.
Walker, who was a Justice Department witness during the January trial, said, “We're glad to be getting it over with so we move on and get to the point where maybe we can just have fair, honest, impartial elections here and just go about our business and not have to go through all this circus to get an election done.”
Walker is running unopposed in this year's election.
Lee noted a pattern to Brown's efforts to keep all whites out of the county's Democratic Party, including holding party caucuses in private homes rather than public voting precincts and inviting only blacks to the meetings.
But he also said he could not find the defendants had a specific animosity against white people.
“Brown, in fact, claims a number of whites as friends,” Lee wrote. “However, there is no doubt from the evidence presented at trial that Brown, in particular, is firmly of the view that blacks, being the majority race in Noxubee County, should hold all elected offices, to the exclusion of whites; and this view is apparently shared by his allies and associates on the NDEC, who, along with Brown, effectively control the election process in Noxubee County.”
When I was out this morning having breakfast, I picked up a copy of the local sunday newspaper and found a 30-word blurb about this case. I made a note to find more info online about it later and it wasn't easy to ferret out either. You'd think that any case where a political party violated the voting rights act to specificly to target racial groups would get a lot of play. That's even before you factor in the historical elements of the first time that such a ruling has been found in favor of whites as opposed to minority groups.
This really just goes to show that people are about equally contemptable as far as I'm concerned. There's no reason to believe that a black man in power is going to be any less racist or discriminatory than a white man despite the whole 'magical negro' phenomenom. I'm glad cases like this are even being brought since by its very nature it stresses that point. All too often you'll see some wingnut out of the NAACP or related group spout on about how blacks cannot, by definition, be racist because they lack power. Every time I hear something like that it makes me want to puke. If nothing else, the Duke Lacrosse case has shown us that black racism is alive and well, and just as willing to make snap judgements and then stick to them despite the facts as racism expressed by others.