Jun-11-98 01:25P ky alliance 502 7788130 P.O3
Introduction and Summary
We come here today to present information on a massive attack on AFrican American Voters and African American organizers of voter-participation that is now occuring in the Black Belt of Alabama.
The attack is being carrier out by agencies of both the state government of Alabama and the Federal government -- the office of the Attorney General of Alabama, the Alabama Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the office of the U.S. Attorney in Birmingham, AL.
The Alabama Black Belt is an area where African Americans are in the majority. Until recent decades, local governments were controlled by a small minrotiy of white citizens. After the struggle to voting rights that took place in the 1960s, African Americans in this area registered to vote in huge numbers, and by the end of the 1970s had elected majorities to local governing bodies in several counties. Voter turnout in the area in most elections ran a remarkable 70 percent or more. And although all these counties continue to be extremely poor, th eshift in power brought significant changes in the lives of the people -- for example in housing, health care, recreational and educational facilities, public services, job opportunities, and ability to walk the streets without fear.
In the mid-1980s, there was an attempt by the old white power structure to regain power through criminal charges against organizers of voter paticipation and by intimidation of voters. 212 felony charges of vote fraud were brought against eight organizers of voter fraud were brought against eight organizers. The charges involved absentee ballots, which are a major factor in election outcomes in this area because they are many elderly citizens who cannot go to the polls and shortage of jobs mean that many people work outside their home counties. Ultimately, none of the felony charges brought in the 1980s held up in court, and African Americans continued coming out to the polls in huge numbers.
After the November, 1995 general election an almost identical attack began. Since that time, charges of voter fraud have been brought against 12 organizers in Hale, Wilcox, and Greene Counties. FBI agents have questioned hundreds of African American citizensin Greene County about their 1994 vote. In this county, which is presently the main center of the attack (and where 80 percent of the population is African American) eight people have been indicted, and two have been convicted and sentenced to 33 months in prison
All of this has produced a dramatic reduction in voter turnout, especially in thje number of abenstee votes. This is already producing a shift in election results that will alter these counties. For example, in the June 2, 1996 primary an African American prosecutor elected 5-1/2 years ago to serve three predominantly African American counties (Marengo, Sumter, and Greene) was defeated by the white prosecutor he ousted in the previous election, losing by 256 vtoes.
These developments in the Alabama Black Belt must be seen in the context of a wider pattern of attack on voting rights and fair representation in government For. example, in Alabama, these is an effort to pass laws that make voting more complicated and difficult. There is also a growing effort to reverse redistricting that has made it possible for more African Americans to win
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