The Rev. Jesse Jackson urged the federal Department of Justice today to investigate alleged voting irregularities in Florida, telling a crowd of riled-up Democrats that thousands of minority voters had been disenfranchised in the state that will choose the president.
He was joined by some of the city’s top Democrats at a rally to demand that Florida count all its presidential ballots.
Speaker after speaker criticized Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris for certifying Texas Gov. George W. Bush’s victory, excoriated Republicans for accusing Vice President Al Gore of trying to steal the election and lamented Miami-Dade county’s decision to halt a hand recount in the face of what Democrats say was mob intimidation.
Jackson said about 90 percent of those whose votes went uncounted were minorities, including people allegedly turned away from the polls because they did not have proper identification or their names did not appear on voting rolls. In Duval County, nearly 42 percent of the 27,000 ballots that were not counted came from predominantly black areas.
“All of it together represents a scheme,” Jackson told reporters after the rally at Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in Manhattan. “What you will see is a pattern of targeted racial profiling. … We deserve not just a recount but an investigation.”
Republicans say all Floridians’ votes have been counted and recounted, and that Bush was the rightful winner.
Jackson, who has been in Florida for the recounts, said the exclusion of voters and invalidation of ballots was more important than the outcome of the presidential election.
“In a democracy, you can afford to lose an election, but you cannot afford to lose your franchise,” he said. “It is the federal government’s job to protect that franchise, … a tremendous burden upon [Attorney General] Janet Reno, upon President Clinton to in fact use the powers of government to protect our right to vote.”
He also echoed Gore’s call for patience during the dispute over election results.
“We don’t have a timetable on the validity of our Constitution,” he said. “We’ll fight as long as it takes to protect the sanctity of our right to vote.”
Other Pols Join Jackson
Jackson was joined by Democratic Reps. Charles Rangel, Gary Ackerman and Jerrold Nadler, City Comptroller Alan Hevesi, Public Advocate Mark Green and several labor leaders.
“This election in Florida is challenging the notion that government derives its power from the people,” Nadler said.
He called the Florida legislature’s decision to consider naming its own electors to settle the presidential election “a constitutional coup d’etat.”
“I don’t think they’ll get away with it legally, but they’d better not, because that would really be a constitutional revolution.”
Hevesi criticized Harris’ certification of Bush’s victory, which came after Miami-Dade County halted its manual recount of votes and while Palm Beach County was still counting. He said Harris, who was Florida co-chair of Bush’s campaign, appeared to be hoping for a position in a Bush administration.
“Her intention was simple,” Hevesi said. “She was going to make sure George Bush was certified, and that’s an outrage, that’s a violation of an oath. … She has sold her soul for a job.”
ABCNEWS contributed to this report.