Helms’ Campaign Denies It Tried to Intimidate Black Voters
WASHINGTON (AP) _ An official of Sen. Jesse Helms’ 1990 re-election campaign denies the campaign was involved in a mailing before the election that the Justice Department says was intended to intimidate black voters.
Nevertheless, Helms’ campaign officials signed a consent decree Wednesday to settle the Justice Department’s complaint.
″The so-called civil rights bureaucrats left us no choice but to accept this agreement,″ said Carter Wrenn, who heads the Congressional Club, Helms’ political organization.
Wrenn said the Helms for Senate organization did not review the text of the postcard mailing to voters, did not know who they were mailed to or how many were mailed.
″The Helms for Senate Committee made this settlement for one reason: it did not have $250,000 to take the Washington bureaucrats to court,″ Wrenn said.
The Justice Department lawsuit charged that the postcards were sent to 125,000 voters. It charged that postcards falsely told eligible voters they were not eligible to vote and warned that if they went to the polls they could be prosecuted for voter fraud.
The complaint said an investigation determined that black voters were targeted to receive 97 percent of the postcards.
Helms, R-N.C., was opposed in the campaign by Harvey Gantt, the black former mayor of Charlotte, N.C. The race had been considered close, but Helms won re-election to a third term by a comfortable margin. Helms received 1,080,208 votes to Gantt’s 974,701.
During the campaign, Helms ran television ads accusing Gantt of trying the court black voters, but the Democrat denied any effort to make a racial appeal.
The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Raleigh, N.C., charged Helms’ re-election campaign, the North Carolina Republican Party and four campaign consulting and marketing firms with violating the Voting Rights Act.
It alleged that at least 44,000 postcards were sent to black voters and an additional 81,000 were sent to voters in 86 predominately black precincts.
The consent decree the defendants signed must be approved by a federal judge.
Assistant Attorney General John Dunne said in a statement that the consent decree prohibits the state Republican Party from conducting any ballot security programs directed at voters simply because they are black.
The defendants also are banned from any activity intended to threaten, coerce, or intimidate eligible black voters from going to the polls.
The decree requires the defendants to get prior approval from the federal court before conducting any ballot security program, which is defined as efforts to prevent vote fraud or inform prospective voters of their eligibility to cast ballots.
The defendants are also obligated to give the Justice Department 20 days’ notice before seeking court permission to conduct such a program, Dunne said.
The department said the other defendants in the case who signed the consent decree were: Jefferson Marketing Inc., Computer Operations and Mailing Professionals, Inc., Discount Paper Brokers Inc., Campaign Management Inc.; and two individuals, Edward Locke and Douglas Davidson.
Wrenn denied that the Helms campaign agreed to hire Locke and pay him to conduct the postcard mailing.