GOP Memo Admits Plan Could ‘Keep Black Vote Down’
A Republican National Committee official calculated that a so-called ballot security program in Louisiana “could keep the black vote down considerably,” according to documents released in federal court Friday.
The documents and court hearing were the latest developments in a controversy over the GOP’s ballot program that Democrats maintain is aimed at reducing minority turnout. The Republicans say the program’s sole purpose is to purge ineligible voters from voting roles.
In an Aug. 13 memo the court made public Friday, Kris Wolfe, the Republican National Committee Midwest political director, wrote Lanny Griffith, the committee’s Southern political director, and said of the Louisiana campaigning:
“I know this race is really important to you. I would guess that this program will eliminate at least 60-80,000 folks from the rolls. . . . If it’s a close race . . . which I’m assuming it is, this could keep the black vote down considerably.”
She said in the memorandum that the program had been approved by Gregory Graves, deputy political director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
The document, called Exhibit 13, was unsealed by U.S. District Judge Dickinson R. Debevoise when lawyers for the Democratic National Committee said it was needed to question Wolfe.
Wolfe testified that she wrote about the possibility of keeping the black vote down to remind Griffith that there “might be a political situation he might want to consider. . . . I wanted him to be aware of the political considerations.”
The Democrats are suing the Republican Party for $10 million, charging that the Republican National Committee ballot security programs--a method of assuring that voters reside at their listed addresses--violated a 1981 consent agreement signed by both parties.
Under the agreement, the Republican committee would “refrain from undertaking any ballot security activities in polling places or election districts where the racial composition of such districts is a factor.”
Debevoise refused to issue a restraining order requiring the GOP to stop all similar activity.
Accepts Lawyers’ Word
The judge said he accepted the word of Republican lawyers who told him all ballot security programs have been stopped, including an effort the Democrats say singled out predominantly black and Latino precincts in Pontiac, Mich.
In testimony Friday, Mark Braden, the Republican National Committee’s chief counsel and the organizer of the ballot security program, said he repeatedly sought to make it clear to subordinates that “race was a factor that could not be used. I would instill the fear of God in them. . . . I’m not an idiot, this is a big press issue, and it’s a big legal issue.”
The committee’s ballot security program was conducted in Louisiana, Indiana and Missouri. Before it became controversial, GOP political strategists said they planned to use it in other states.
Louisiana state District Court Judge Richard E. Lee issued an injunction against the program on Oct. 14. In his order, Lee said: “This was an insidious scheme by the Republican Party to remove blacks from the voting roles.”