Election year 2000: A million black voters disenfranchised?

By Larry Elder

Tell me again: Which of the presidential candidates calls himself a “uniter” and not a “divider”?

“Don’t tell us that the strongest democracy on earth,” said Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry in a recent speech for the NAACP, “that a million disenfranchised African-Americans and the most tainted election in American history is the best that we can do. Don’t tell us that we already see the purging taking place down in Florida. Don’t tell us we don’t have a right to expect an election in the United States that sets an example of democracy to the world. We can do better, and we will.” A million disenfranchised African-Americans?


Peter Kirsanow, an attorney and black Republican, sits on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Kirsanow joined the commission after they completed their investigation of the allegations of voter fraud, manipulation or deliberate suppression of the vote in Florida.

Larry Elder: Peter, John Kerry said a million black voters were disenfranchised. I assume he means all over the country, not just in Florida, in the year 2000. Is that true?

Peter Kirsanow: No, absolutely not. This kind of rhetoric has been trafficked in for the last going-on-four years now by a number of individuals. It’s kind of surprising that a presidential candidate would actually do the same. But, as you may recall, before the polls were even closed in Florida during the 2000 election, activists had descended upon the state and already were proclaiming that voters were being disenfranchised, harassed, intimidated.

In fact, some people were saying that dogs and hoses were being used on black voters and that tens of thousands were either being obstructed from going to the polls or otherwise harassed. There was a six-month investigation by the U.S. Civil Rights Commission … also an investigation by the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department … There was absolutely no truth to any of those allegations … not one person who was intimidated … [or] had their vote stolen. There was no disenfranchisement … no truth to any of those allegations.

Elder: Kerry continues to say this. Nobody seemed to call him on it … or challenge him. It’s just unbelievable.

Kirsanow: It’s one thing when you have kind of fringe individuals, people on the far left or far right … but when you have the person with whom we hope to invest the highest degree of authority and credibility saying those kinds of things, it’s disturbing … The problem here is that, from the very beginning, a number of myths flowed from the 2000 election.

People who are in a position of authority and responsibility, who should be dispelling those myths, fan the flames even more … It just so happened that Florida’s vote was so close, and the electoral vote so crucial to the outcome of the election, that it provided anyone who wanted to try to suggest that the outcome was somehow tainted with a remarkable opportunity to engage in partisanship.

Elder: Isn’t it insulting and condescending? You are making a lie in order to get people to embrace your point of view and to have hostility toward the Republican Party based on a falsehood.

Kirsanow: The same kinds of statements are said to black audiences before every election cycle … When I say “same,” I mean distortions, falsehoods or myths that suggest one party is out to get you, or one party is out to discriminate against you. There are always these ads before an election cycle that a vote for a certain party is a vote for another person being lynched, or another black church being burned …

For the last 15-20 years, I can remember before every election cycle, hearing that, well, the Voting Rights Act is about to expire and blacks won’t be able to vote … These things can get a kind of saliency because it was only 20 to 30 years ago that blacks were subject to poll taxes, literacy tests and other overt and appalling abridgements of voting rights … for partisan advantage, there are some who seek to perpetuate that myth hoping that will energize the base.

John Fund, a Wall Street Journal columnist and author of “Stealing Elections,” a new book on election fraud, agrees with Kirsanow. How did Kerry come up with 1 million? Fund says the million number came from a national extrapolation of the 57,000 Floridians who – according to the August 2001 report of the Commission on Civil Rights (which used some statistical extrapolations, hypothetical scenarios, and so on) – were denied the right to vote. The commission didn’t repeat that number in their final April 2003 report, instead conceding that “it is impossible to determine the extent of the disenfranchisement.”

So is John Kerry intentionally misleading the public? “I think,” said Fund, “he’s creating an alternate conceptualization of reality.”