A story on May 8 in which politicians rebutted long-standing rumors about payments to deliver the black vote in Virginia inaccurately described contributions to the Virgnia Crusade for Voters, one of the state's largest black political organizations. The story said the crusade's activities were "largely" financed by the family of the late Lt. Gov. J. Sargent Reynolds. The chairman of the crusade said Reynolds' only contributions were for buses for a 1964 voter registration drive and for a share of the cost of publicizing the crusade's candidate endorsements when the crusade endorsed Reynolds. The Post regrets the error.
When black Virginians go to the polls on June 14 to participate in the Democratic primary, an overwhelming majority of 85 to 95 per cent is expected to vote in response to a campaign mechanism called the "guide ballot."
A guide ballot is merely a list of candidates endorsed by local or statewide black voter orgainizations. They are circulated in predominantly black residential areas as few days before an election and handed to voters near polling places on election day by familiar political workers.
The intense competition for a place on guide ballots over the years in Virginia has created a folklore that includes rumors of big payoffs to a few black political figures for endorsements and election day services.
Interviews with both black and white politicians in recent days, however, show that campaign expenditures for delivery of the black vote in the state - none of them illegal under Virginia law - are modest when compared with the costs of delivering the white vote.
Candidates who do and do not expect to carry the black vote estimated that $50,000 to $75,000 must be spent to do an effective job of turning out black voters. Blacks should account for about 15 per cent of a voter turnout of 500,000 to 600,000.
Former Attorney General Andrew P. Miller, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate, is spending about $1 million on his primary campaign. Almost all of this money is going to white campaign workers and to the white or white-owned campaign professionals and businesses that carry out the elaborate polling, advertising and precinct work necessary to sway the predominantly white electorate.
"The notion that the black vote is bought and the white vote is not is just a racist notion," Democratic attorney general candidate John Schell said in an interview. "It is just a matter of paying different kinds of workers to do different things. In some rural black areas you pay workers to drive to houses without telephones to bring voters to the polls."
The big difference between campaign spending for black votes compared with spending for white votes is at the poll worker level. Del. William P. Robinson (D-Norfolk), the only black member of the Virginia House of Delegates, described this difference in an interview:
"Traditionally in predominantly white precincts the poll workers are volunteers. In black precincts we pay workers, say $16 a day and lunch money, to work at the polls from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m."
Charges of payoffs to buy the black vote are usually based on the belief that well known black political figures take large payments from candidates in exchange for endorsements and then pay only a part of that money to poll workers for distributing guide ballots.
Insofar as Norfolk goes, that's all unmitigated lie," Robinson said.
Norfolk and Richmond, the state's two largest cities, respectively, account for about one-third of the state's black voters. The Norfolk black vote is delivered through an endorsement by Concerned Citizens, a black leadership group varying in size from 25 to 35 persons, officials say. Its choices are made known by a guide ballot known for its color as the "golden rod."
"We meet two or three weeks before an election to make our decision," Robinson said. "When it is obvious who we are for, we go ahead and announce it. When it is close, we keep it close to the chest until just before the election. That keeps the other side from having a chance to go to work to offset us."
In Norfolk's 13 predominantly black and five partly black precincts, the golden rod has a devastating effect. "We get about 95 per cent," Robinson said matter of factly.
The high percentage of black votes delivered by endorsements in Norfolk and elsewhere is attributed by black and white politicians to the tradition of trust placed in the judgment of a few political leaders and a pervasive feeling among black voters that bloc voting is their only hope for an equal voice in politics.
"We have such a small part of the vote, we have to keep it compact and unified," Robinson said.
One proof of the immunity of the golden rod endorsement to payoffs. Robinson said, is the control that Concerned Citizens has kept over it through what he calls their "shared decision."
"If this thing were open to bidding we would have lost control long ago," he said.
Robert G. Doumar, former Republican chairman of Norfolk, also dismissed as "a lot of crap" the idea that the Norfolk black vote could be bought. "I will say to you candidly, that if it had been for sale the Republican Party would have bought it."
In Richmond, the principal black endorsement organization is the Crusade for Voters. The crusade was effectively utilized by the late Lt. Gov. J. Sargent Reynolds in his legislative and statewide campaigns and its activities were financed largely by donations from him and other members of his family, major stockholders and executives in the Reynolds Metals Co.
Del. Richard S. Reynolds III (D-Richmond), now a candidate for the nomination for lieutenant governor and an older brother of J. Sargent Reynolds, has been endorsed by the crusade in this campaign.
It is in rural areas where congressional district and county "voter leagues" make independent endorsements that the assertiens of campaign payments to leaders is most often made.
"Norfolk may be a naive case," Robinson said. You know that there is moolzh involved in some places and it's most likely in the small bailiwicks. But I have absolutely no knowledge of it myself."
In one such largely rural area, Moses Riddick, the black vice mayor of Suffolk, has established such a reputation for being able to deliver the black vote that he has been hired by some campaigns.
Paul Goldman, campaign manager for former Lt. Gov. Henry E. Howell, making his third bid for governor, said the Howell campaign has been paying Riddick $250 a month this year as a part-time staffer. Schell said his campaign is paying Riddick $25 a week for expenses.
The practice of paying black poll workers, Robinson and others said is a legacy left by white candidates who began paying a few blacks to turn out the very small black vote in Virginia when blacks were almost excluded from the political process.
A few black political figures are beginning to resist the practice. For instance, James Ghee of Farmville and Robert Scales of Cumberland, both influential black political figures in rural areas, resorted to volunteers in turning out the black vote for President Carter last fall, a Carter campaign official said.