“The president kept talking about black voices that were important as he tried to get into African American society,” said Cavalier Johnson, president of the Milwaukee Common Council. “Then he loses the election and turns right and targets the same societies that these black people came from.”
Johnson, who is black, reflected a deeper anger over the president’s pushing for a recount in the predominantly black county, which some characterized as an attempt to alienate black voters in a desperate and chaotic attempt to remain in power. Although Trump targeted black voters ̵
In Michigan, where Biden won by more than 150,000 votes, one of two Republicans on the Wayne County Electoral Board with four members offered to certify ballot papers from all counties in the county except Detroit. The board ultimately certified the vote, but a state-level certification decision set for Monday remains uncertain.
In Pennsylvania, where Biden leads with about 80,000 votes, Trump’s legal team has claimed that hundreds of thousands of votes in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh should be declared invalid because GOP election observers were not allowed to see the votes count.
And in Wisconsin, where Biden won by 20,500 votes, the Trump campaign pays for a count in various Milwaukee and Dane counties, but not in the rest of the state, which is largely white.
Trump and his allies have provided no evidence of fraud or widespread error in any of these cities, and courts have repeatedly refused to accede to their requests to cancel ballots. The president still shows no sign of backing, prompting black leaders, political analysts and historians to weep over what they described as tactics reminiscent of those used to suppress the voice of black voters after the Civil War.
“It’s just as disgusting now as it was during the Reconstruction, when Democrats thought Republicans were illegal and that black voters had no right to vote, and they did all this terrorist activity to prevent African Americans from voting,” Carol Anderson said. Professor of African American Studies at Emory University. “It’s a very narrow, slippery slope from saying ‘illegal votes’ to ‘illegal voters’, so this attack on black voters is genuine.”
In recent days, Republicans in Wisconsin and elsewhere have denied claims that their lawsuits and counting strategy are aimed at black voters.
Orlando Owens, chairman of the Milwaukee North branch of the county’s Republican Party, said the GOP effort in Wisconsin is aimed at counties that have high concentrations of Democratic voters.
“It just so happens that many black voters are Democrats,” he said, noting that the University of Wisconsin at Madison is in Dane County, where there are a number of college voters, but only 6 percent of the county’s residents are black.
“I do not think race has anything to do with it,” said Rick Baas, leader of the Republican Party on Milwaukee County’s media committee.
But on Friday, a top lawyer for the Biden campaign rejected Trump’s efforts, saying it was involved in a “remarkably cheeky attempt” to dissuade black voters.
“This is outright discriminatory behavior,” Robert F. Bauer said in a conference interview with reporters.
Bauer and other legal experts have repeatedly stressed that Trump’s efforts to block the certification of votes in Michigan’s Wayne County or reverse the outcome of the race in Wisconsin are unlikely to succeed.
Yet Trump’s efforts have left civil rights leaders and suffrage activists.
“People are anxious about the slim glimpse that he could somehow actually change the outcome,” said Fred Royal, president of the Milwaukee chapter of the NAACP. “But more than that, he’s trying to do all this in the middle of this pandemic, where people are tired and people are unemployed, and they’re trying to feed their family and teach their children who are not in school, and now he’s putting us back through this recount process. ”
Royal and other community leaders said they are angry that Trump is suggesting there are more votes than people.
Biden received about 69 percent of the vote – 317,000 votes – in Milwaukee County this year. Four years ago, Democrat Hillary Clinton received 288.00 votes, approx. 65 percent of the vote.
Pastor Greg Lewis, executive director of the non-partisan Souls to the Polls, which worked to increase black voter turnout in Milwaukee, said the allegations of mass election fraud do not click.
“The blame is being put on black communities for all the fraud, and that’s just rubbish,” said Lewis, who has worked with churches to mobilize black voters amid obstacles, including the state’s strict election identification law. “How can you have all the scams when you have all these obstacles in place that make it so unusually difficult to vote in a city like Milwaukee, in a state like Wisconsin?”
Lewis said many voters he encountered were not enthusiastic about the election, and reluctant voters would not spend time trying to commit fraud.
“These people don’t care about the process because they don’t think anyone cares about them,” he said. They “do not care to run out and try to get a candidate in office, especially a candidate they do not even care about.”
In Detroit, which has been at the center of Republicans’ controversial efforts to postpone the approval of votes in Wayne County, local leaders were also upset over questions about the legitimacy of the election.
N. Charles Anderson, executive director of the Urban League of Detroit & Southeastern Michigan, said his organization aired flyers and held virtual events as they worked to get the vote in the nation’s largest majority in black city. Now Anderson sees Trump’s efforts to overturn the results as a “full attack” on the black vote.
“Stimulating voters and oppressing voters has been played aggressively even before the election,” he said. “Now it’s even worse because you’re trying to suggest that you want to suppress the vote of hundreds of thousands of individuals, black and white.”
Ken Kollman, research director and professor at the Center for Political Studies at the University of Michigan, said Trump is challenging the results in Detroit, even though there have only been widespread accusations of voting irregularities there in recent years. But efforts to make the allegations easier have been made easier by several recent major city-wide scandals, including the 2013 conviction of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick on 24 charges of mail fraud, scams and harassment, Kollman said.
“These kinds of attacks are made because they fit the people’s preconceived notion of government inefficiency and corruption,” said Kollman, who nevertheless believes Trump’s actions look more and more sad to many voters.
Whether or not Trump’s attacks on the integrity of the electoral process ultimately fail, Anderson warns that they should be considered another disgraceful chapter in US political history after the Civil War. Anderson believes Trump borrows a side from former politicians, knowing that racial division still works as a “political strategy” in large parts of the country.
“It’s a way to create that aura that something went wrong in this election, to play for an audience that is hyped over white supremacy,” Anderson said. “They need to understand how this happened? How did our Savior lose? . . . And the answer is, as the answer always is, ‘These black people stole it from us.’ ”
Ruble reported from Detroit. Craig reported from Washington.