By Brent Jones for the Baltimoresun.com
The Rev. Jesse Jackson last night headlined a panel that encouraged people to battle voter fraud and disenfranchisement by casting early ballots and registering multiple times to vote.
Jackson, founder and president of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition and a presidential candidate in 1984 and 1988, was joined by investigative journalist Greg Palast and author Jonathan Simon at the Maryland Institute College of Art. The discussion was moderated by radio host Marc Steiner.
All panelists criticized what they said were rigged presidential elections in 2000 and 2004.
“I would urge you not to allow these voter schemes to break our spirit,” Jackson said. “In spite of these schemes, we can still win.”
Jackson shied away from offering opinions about presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain, instead focusing much of the two-hour discussion on the origins of minority voting and encouraging attendees to fight election fraud.
Although Jackson has endorsed Obama, he issued an apology to the Illinois senator in July after a Fox News microphone picked up private comments Jackson made to another guest in which he said Obama talks down to black people.
Last night’s talk contained no such rhetoric, with Jackson saying Obama is the beneficiary of decades of struggles for minority rights to vote.
“Barack is running the last lap of a 54-year race,” Jackson said. “He is the anchor leg of that race.”
Palast has reported extensively on the two previous presidential elections, and told the audience that nearly 100,000 potential black voters were removed from the rolls in Florida in 2000.
He added that ensuing elections saw ex-convicts disenfranchised throughout the country. Palast estimated about 3 million votes were cast and not counted in 2004.
“We’re not in this to save Democratic candidates,” Palast said. “We’re in this to save something very important, and that’s democracy.”
Simon is the co-founder of the Election Defense Alliance, a national coordinating body for citizen electoral integrity groups and individuals.
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