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What Election Recounts Mean For Black Voters


We want to spend a few minutes on the election recount spurred by Green Party candidate Jill Stein. You heard from her directly on this program last week. One recount is already underway in Wisconsin, and Michigan recounts are expected to begin next week. Pennsylvania is less clear. Stein said last night that she would drop her efforts there after a judge required the voters who brought the suit to pay a $1 million bond. Stein then said she would take the issue to federal court.

Now, as you would imagine, Stein's efforts have drawn a sharply mixed reaction. Supporters of Donald Trump and actually Donald Trump himself have ridiculed the effort. Many of those who oppose Donald Trump have supported it. But there's a third group we want to focus on now. There are those who oppose Donald Trump but who see Jill Stein's campaign as a distraction and even a threat to addressing what they say is the real issue, which is voter suppression.

One of the people making that argument is Charles Ellison. He is a political strategist and contributing editor at the online publication The Root. He wrote the article titled - and I'm going to flag some language here - "4 Ways The Jill Stein Recount Screws Black Voters." And he's with us now in our studios in Washington, D.C. Charles Ellison, thanks so much for joining us.

CHARLES ELLISON: Well, Michel, thanks for having me. It's a pleasure.

MARTIN: So some other analysts, like The Washington Post's Dana Milbank, for example, have made the point that the real issue is not some hacking or not some outside interference, but that the real issue is voter suppression. But you actually take it a step further. You say that this effort is actually harmful.

ELLISON: It can be. It can be very destructive to the cause against voter suppression and voter ID. And it sort of unintentionally or inadvertently bolsters the argument of voter suppression or voter ID proponents by saying that see, liberals, progressives, they, too, see that we have a faulty election process wrought with fraud. We've been saying that all along. So why don't we create more voter ID schemes or less early voting or close down more polls? And so I'm - you know, obviously I don't think Jill Stein is trying to do that. But she's inadvertently doing that, and it's doing a lot of harm to the future of voting rights.

MARTIN: So the first thing is - what? - you feel it's a distraction. Number two, you say that a recount could actually bolster voter suppression because your argument would - what?

ELLISON: You know, when you're having that conversation like Jill Stein, it is absent any focus or any emphasis on voter ID, voter suppression. If I were Jill Stein and I'd be doing a recount effort, I'd be basing that on voter ID, voter suppression. And for some reason, folks like Jill Stein, the Clinton campaign, even major pollsters and forecasters before the election, they weren't even trying to factor in what sort of impact the gutting of the Voting Rights Act - this is the first major election in 50 years that hasn't had the full protection of the Voting Rights Act.

And nobody wants to talk about - like, really didn't have a robust discussion on voter suppression. I mean, there was some worry or concern about it, but not that kind of aggressive discussion that I had anticipated.

MARTIN: So is your main objection to this - what? That Jill Stein is fundraising off of this? Or that she's raised at this point about $7 million...


MARTIN: ...That could be used to do something that you think is more meaningful?

ELLISON: Right. Particularly as far as the black electorate is concerned, OK? So you're feeding into people's, you know, sort of false hopes that perhaps we won't have Donald Trump get inaugurated. That's not going to happen. You know, let's just be realistic about this and maybe, you know, direct energies and fundraising towards creating new efforts, mobilization efforts, political action committees and getting ready for really significant election cycles in 2017, and to really make some progress on a lot of key issues.

MARTIN: That's Charles Ellison. He's a political strategist. He's a contributing editor at The Root. That's an online publication that focuses on issues of particular concern to African-Americans. Charles, thanks so much for joining us.

ELLISON: Hey, thanks so much. Take care. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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