Alabama has come up with a “vouching” proposal where voters who lack the newly required ID are supposed to get two (mostly white) election officials to “vouch” for them in order to vote a regular ballot. “Vouching” has a long and sordid history in this country so the NAACP is fighting the provision.
Wanted to highlight one part of the NAACP lawyer-letter to the Secretary of State in Alabama, because for one thing it’s clever lawyering but perhaps more importantly it goes to the fact that in some states “Democrat” is just proxy for “black voters.” The NAACP wanted to bring out the racial animus behind this law. Here, they do that by quoting from a federal judge in an unrelated Alabama corruption case. Scroll down to # 5 in the NAACP letter if you want to see the cite.
It’s a crazy story. Briefly, several Alabama lawmakers were brought up on federal corruption charges. It was alleged that gambling lobbyists were buying the lawmakers because gambling lobbyists wanted a referendum on electronic bingo on the ballot in Alabama.
Some other Alabama lawmakers wore a wire for the FBI to record the corrupt pro-gambling lawmakers. However, the lawmakers who were wired to nail the corrupt lawmakers inadvertently captured their own conversations regarding how they needed to keep the AA vote down in the 2010 elections to retain a GOP majority.
The supposed anti-corruption lawmakers wore the wire not because they wanted to help the FBI catch corrupt lawmakers, but because they did not want the pro-gambling imitative on the ballot because they believed black people would come out for a referendum on electronic bingo, that would drive AA turnout in 2010, and those black voters might retain or elect more black lawmakers who also happen to be Democrats.
Here’s the section of the opinion on the corruption case.The judge is trying to determine whether the racist Alabama lawmakers are credible to act as witnesses against the corrupt Alabama lawmakers:
As a preliminary matter, the court finds that Beason and Lewis lack the credibility that the government sought to establish. The evidence introduced at trial contradicts the self-serving portrait of Beason and Lewis as untouchable opponents of corruption. In reality, Beason and Lewis had ulterior motives rooted in naked political ambition and pure racial bias.
The court finds that Beason and Lewis lack credibility for two reasons. First, their motive for cooperating with F.B.I. investigators was not to clean up corruption but to increase Republican political fortunes by reducing African-American voter turnout. Second, they lack credibility because the record establishes their purposeful, racist intent.
One of the government’s recordings captured Beason and Lewis discussing political strategy with other influential Republican legislative allies. A confederate warned: “Just keep in mind if [a pro-gambling] bill passes and we have a referendum in November, every black in this state will be bused to the polls. And that ain’t gonna help.” The participants predicted: “Every black, every illiterate” would be “bused on HUD financed buses.” Beason agreed: “That’s right. This will be busing extra. . . . Because you gotta have somebody to pay for those buses.” One participant replied that casinos would provide “free food” and gambling certificates to get black voters to the polls. In a separate conversation, during which Lewis asked whether the predominantly black residents of Greene County were “y’all’s Indians?,” Beason responded by derisively referring to blacks as “Aborigines.”
The court finds that Beason and Lewis cooperated with the F.B.I. in order to secure political advantage. The evidence at trial showed that black communities in Alabama tend to support electronic bingo. The evidence further demonstrated that black voters tend to be Democrats. Indeed, Beason’s and Lewis’s scheme was predicated on their belief that blacks supported electronic bingo and Democratic candidates.
By preventing SB380 from appearing on the 2010 ballot, Beason and Lewis believed that black voters would stay home on election day, thereby increasing Republican chances to take control of the state legislature.
The evidence indicates that Beason and Lewis sought to inculpate the defendants primarily to neutralize a potential political threat. Beason’s and Lewis’s political objective undercuts the anti-corruption motive they advanced at trial.
The racially discriminatory purpose expressed in the recordings further undermines Beason’s and Lewis’s credibility. It is, perhaps, unsurprising that politicians have political motives to disrupt and defeat legislation advanced by opponents. But Beason, Lewis, and other influential Republican politicians did not target Democrats generally in their opposition to SB380; they plainly singled out African-Americans for mockery and racist abuse.
Beason’s and Lewis’s statements demonstrate a deep-seated racial animus and a desire to suppress black votes by manipulating what issues appeared on the 2010 ballot
The Beason and Lewis recordings represent compelling evidence that political exclusion through racism remains a real and enduring problem in this State.
Furthermore, Beason’s and Lewis’s wrongful motivations are relevant to the political corruption at the heart of this trial. As detailed below, the government has proven the existence of an illegal vote-buying conspiracy by a preponderance of the evidence. The government rightly seeks to prosecute illicit bribery in the guise of campaign contributions.
At the same time, the discriminatory intent expressed by Beason, Lewis, and their influential legislative friends represents another form of corruption infecting the political system.
The purpose of their competing scheme was to maintain and strengthen white control of the political system. This form of race discrimination is as profoundly damaging to the fabric of democracy as is the bribery scheme the government seeks to punish.