U.S. Says Blacks in Mississippi Suppress White Vote
By ADAM NOSSITER
MACON, Miss., Oct. 5 â€” The Justice Department has chosen this no-stoplight, courthouse town buried in the eastern Mississippi prairie for an unusual civil rights test: the first federal lawsuit under the Voting Rights Act accusing blacks of suppressing the rights of whites.
The action represents a sharp shift, and it has raised eyebrows outside the state. The government is charging blacks with voting fraud in a state whose violent rejection of blacksâ€™ right to vote, over generations, helped give birth to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Yet within Mississippi the case has provoked knowing nods rather than cries of outrage, even among liberal Democrats.
The Justice Departmentâ€™s main focus is Ike Brown, a local power broker whose imaginative electoral tactics have for 20 years caused whisperings from here to the state capital in Jackson, 100 miles to the southwest. Mr. Brown, tall, thin, a twice-convicted felon, the chairman of the Noxubee County Democratic Executive Committee and its undisputed political boss, is accused by the federal government of orchestrating â€” with the help of others â€” â€œrelentless voting-related racial discriminationâ€ against whites, whom blacks outnumber by more than 3 to 1 in the county.
His goal, according to the government: keeping black politicians â€” ones supported by Mr. Brown, that is â€” in office.