Saturday, June 30, 2007
JACKSON, Miss., June 29 -- The head of a Mississippi Democratic Party organization illegally suppressed white residents' votes, a federal judge ruled Friday in the first case filed by the Justice Department alleging that whites were subjected to voting discrimination based on their race.
U.S. District Judge Tom S. Lee ruled that Ike Brown, chairman of the Democratic Executive Committee of Noxubee County, violated the Voting Rights Act by issuing different procedures for collecting and counting absentee ballots from white and black voters. The executive committee, also found liable in the case, is responsible for administering Democratic primaries in the county.
There was "ample direct and circumstantial evidence of an intent to discriminate against white voters which has manifested itself through practices designed to deny and/or dilute the voting rights of white voters in Noxubee County," Lee's ruling said.
Brown, who is black, has been chairman of the committee since 2000. He argued at trial that the government's suit was a perversion of the voting rights law and said it was "preposterous" that the Justice Department would claim that blacks, who faced 135 years of discrimination by whites in the state, are now oppressing whites.
The judge said he will consider a remedy at a later date.
Wan J. Kim, the assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department's civil rights division, praised the decision.