Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

The Jigger's Up

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    NEWSLETTERS


    You’ll have to forgive Mark Kirk for worrying that Democrats are going to “jigger” the vote on the West Side, the South Side, Rockford and East St. Louis. Unlike those parts of Illinois, there’s not a lot of jiggering going on in Kirk’s hometown of Kenilworth. Although it often happens in North Chicago, which is part of his congressional district.

    Also, as we’ve learned, Kirk’s iPod is heavy on Taylor Swift and Big & Rich, not Jay-Z.

    Last week, Kirk was recorded telling supporters that he’d assembled a team of integrity squads to combat “vote fraud,” which in some conservatives circles is code word for “minorities at the polls.”
     
    “These are lawyers and other people that will be deployed in key, vulnerable precincts, for example, South and West sides of Chicago, Rockford, Metro East, where the other side might be tempted to jigger the numbers somewhat,” Kirk said in the phone conversation, which was secretly taped and posted on YouTube.

    Those, of course, are the four most African-American sections of Illinois. Black leaders were incensed, not only that by the prospect of the same sort of minority disenfranchisement that helped George W. Bush win Florida in 2000, but by Kirk’s use of the ‘j’ word.

    “The problem I have is that it sounds so much like another word,” Rev. Albert Tyson, pastor St. Stephen’s A.M.E. Church, told ABC7.

    Mark Kirk is too well bred to even insinuate the ‘n’ word in conversation. But he’s also too well-steeped in Republican politics to let blacks just go ahead and vote without raising a stink about it.

    So is Kirk guilty of racism? As another Republican, Calvin Coolidge once said, “Deeds, not words.”

    UPDATE: Kirk's opponent, Alexi Giannoulias, issued this response to Kirk's phone call: "Every registered voter has the right to cast a ballot. I'm very concerned by reports that Congressman Kirk and the Republican party have launched a 'voter integrity program' that is targeting African American communities throughout the state. That sort of Florida-style voter intimidation is disgusting, illegal, and smacks of the Karl Rove politics that Illinois voters are sick of. I have asked my campaign attorneys to look into ways to address this voter suppression effort by Congressman Kirk and his party. When Illinois voters go to the polls on November 2nd, they should all enjoy the same right to cast a ballot, free of intimidation."