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Election 2000: Rev. Jesse Jackson on Florida African-American Voter Turnout, Need to Investigate Potential Voting Irregularities

Aired November 8, 2000 - 10:44 a.m. ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: When this election is all said and done -- and we should know that it's far from being done --- there will be a lot for historians to look at.

One aspect of that is the strong turn out by the African-American voters.

For more on that, let's bring in the Reverend Jesse Jackson, joining us this morning from Nashville. Good morning, Reverend.

REVEREND JESSE JACKSON, RAINBOW/PUSH COALITION: Good morning, and a little sleepy, but excited.

KAGAN: I bet you are. Now, you're in Nashville. Have you had a chance to talk with the vice president since last night?

JACKSON: Not this morning. The vice president, of course, ran a tremendous race, and so did George W. Bush, and now we're into a very tense moment, but let's let the process be followed through. The issue now is not just a recount, but an investigation because there are many reports of irregularities in Broward county, in Tampa, in Tallahassee. So tonight we're having a mass meeting in north Miami, Florida, at the New Birth Baptist Church. The reverend...

KAGAN: Who is we?

JACKSON: Well the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, NAACP, ministers, elected officials, A. Philip Randolph and voters whose votes were not counted yesterday. The people must speak. It's not just what would vice president Gore do -- it is his campaign -- but it's the people's vote, and they want their vote to count.

KAGAN: One thing of note here, the turnout of African-Americans in this race. There was some concern that they would not, that African-Americans would not turn out in the same numbers for Al Gore as they did for George W. Bush, yet our early exit polls showing actually people coming out stronger for Al Gore than they did for George W. Bush -- than they, I'm sorry, than they did for Bill Clinton in '96.

JACKSON: But you see that is such a superficial analysis. I hear pundits about -- it's not just about Mr. Clinton or Mr. Gore. It's about our own interest. For example, when Mr. Bush said that he will support a strict constructionist supreme court and that he exalts Clarence Thomas and Scalia, that threatens workers who choose the right to organize or the right to work. That threatens women who want to set determination over their bodies, that threatens blacks and browns and women who want affirmative action. And so we felt the need to vote because we see that this state's rights, the right, the work law ideology, threatens 50 years of social progress, and so we have many reasons to vote there.

There are 38 blacks in the U.S. Congress. If Democrats win, 22 stood to become chairs, subcommittee chairs, or mayors or state legislatures. So, therefore, many reasons to vote, and of course, the captain of our team is vice president Al Gore.

KAGAN: And Reverend, there was a much better organized effort this year by groups like the NAACP, like Operation PUSH, a lot of dollars spent that had not been spent in the past. That did bring out the voters. Is that also going to bring out IOU's to the politicians that benefit by that?

JACKSON: Of course it means that. Of course, when you put, when you investment, more in political education, you get more results. People are going to see a relationship between their vote in public education for all that oppose for vouchers for a few, between their vote and prescription drugs, between their vote and affirmative action.

You know a great factor in solidifying Florida was when Jeb Bush decided to destroy affirmative action. And so two legislators -- Mr. Meeks and Heel -- they sat in. We marched 75,000 to 100,000 people on the Florida capital this last spring.

So much of this mobilization is thanks to Jeb Bush attacking affirmative action. But for many blacks, Hispanics and women, affirmative action is access to a job, to a college out there, contract. They felt very threatened.

Today in Florida, you cannot give all the money to male athletics: half the men, half the men. So now you have scholarships in basketball and track and swimming and the like. That's affirmative action. And so that attack by Jeb Bush was a real threat. And so when George W. says he supports affirmative access but not affirmative action, I mean, this kind of stiff ideology of resistance is a big factor in mobilization.

KAGAN: Well you mentioned mobilization, you mentioned the meeting that's taking place tonight. When it's all said and done, though, do you believe that George W. Bush will be the next president of the United States?

JACKSON: Well, let's not leave it to conjecture. Let's count the vote. Let the count vote determine. Vice President Gore last night was prepared to concede magnanimously. Then he got information that altered his concession. Now the issue is not whether he be magnanimous -- they laud the pundits for this -- who was it might be magnanimous and save us the pain. What's painful about a fair vote count? If you go to a football game, and the end of the game is 21-21, then you have overtime, that's not painful, that's exciting. If there's a misjudgment, you have a replay. That's for clarity, that's not for division. If you have "sudden death."

I mean, this is exciting, this is a democracy, and it's best that we are proceeding the fighting, we're being civil, and the winner will be president, and the loser will concede, and both Mr. Bush and Mr. Gore have made that commitment.

So let's go through the process. There is no presidential crisis. President Clinton is still the president. He'll be until January the 20th. So we have time to make democracy work.

But many of those voters who pulled Mr. Gore's lever, Buchanan got the credit for it. Others were turned away. Others were turned away, for example...

KAGAN: Right, we heard it.

JACKSON: Then, of course, about affidavits, and are they verifiable, and absentee ballots? And so we're writing to deserve a full investigation, so there might not be a mass meeting of the Americans tonight...

KAGAN: As you pointed out, a lot of...

JACKSON: So there might not be a mass meeting of the Americans tonight...

KAGAN: I'm sorry, Reverend, I don't mean to cut you off, we're just so short on time. I want to thank you for joining us.

JACKSON: Just understand, tonight at 7:00 at New Birth Baptist Church in north Miami, there will be a mass meeting of those voters who feel that somehow their vote did not count.

KAGAN: North Miami. A lot of questions, a lot of people having questions they want answered out there, and as you point out, the process does continue. Reverend Jesse Jackson joining us from Nashville, Tennessee, thank you very much.

JACKSON: Thank you.



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