Citing Disenfranchisement of Black Voters, New ACLU Ad Assails Election Day Fiasco, Calls for Reforms

June 8, 2001 12:00 am

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NEW YORK–In a new advertisement assailing the nation’s failure to ensure all citizens the right to vote, the American Civil Liberties Union is pointing to “”a day in American history when black people counted less than white people.””

That day, the new ACLU ad says, was November 7, 2000.

“”What we witnessed in Florida during the past election was a national embarrassment,”” said ACLU President Nadine Strossen. “”It is simply no longer possible for the nation to ignore the deep, disturbing, and discriminatory flaws in the electoral system that have now been revealed to all of us in excruciating detail.”

The ad, which is scheduled to appear in the June 18 issue of The New Yorker, cites the example of Jermaine Terry, a Florida man who was told that his name had been taken off the voter list when he arrived at the polls last Election Day.

“”There was no real reason he should have been denied his right to vote,”” the ad says. “”But there was something that made it more likely: Jermaine Terry is black.””

According to the ad, Terry is just one of hundreds of thousands of black citizens whose votes were never counted on November 7. Many of them live in districts with the now infamous Votomatic punch card system. Those machines registered no vote for president five times as often as the more costly optical scanners.

The ACLU has filed voting rights lawsuits in Florida, Georgia, California, Missouri and Illinois, seeking improvement in voting systems and technology. The litigation has already resulted in one success; a state judge in Illinois ordered the use of improved voting technology in Cook County for a municipal election held in March.

On the federal level, the ACLU has endorsed new voting reform legislation that would assist state and local governments in meeting their constitutional duty of providing equal protection for all voters. The legislation was introduced in March by Sens. Christopher Dodd, D-CT, and then-Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-SD, and by Rep. John Conyers, D-MI. “The ACLU has recommitted itself to the profoundly important goal of ensuring that what happened in the 2000 election does not ever happen again and we urge Congress to do the same,” said LaShawn Warren, an ACLU legislative counsel in Washington.

In addition to the three lawsuits filed by the national ACLU and other groups, the ACLU of Florida, along with a coalition of state and local groups, is participating in another lawsuit which specifically addresses the injustice of disenfranchisement of former felons in that state.

Florida is one of nine states that deny the right to vote to ex-offenders who have served their time (Alabama, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, Virginia, and Wyoming are the others).

One particularly troubling aspect of state laws that disenfranchise ex-felons, the ACLU said, is their impact on black men. In Florida, 31 percent of adult black males cannot vote as a result of felony disenfranchisement, almost three times greater than percentage of black males disenfranchised nationwide.

“”Our constitutional democracy rests on certain core principles,”” the ACLU’s Strossen said. “”Every vote should be counted accurately, every vote should be counted equally, and no one should be denied the right to vote based on the color of his or her skin.””

The voting rights advertisement is the third in a series that have been running this year in The New Yorker and The New York Times. To view the other 2001 ads, as well as the ads from 2000 and 1999, go to our online gallery at

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