ST. LOUIS – Missouri's Republican Party wants a Democratic-aligned group to stop circulating a get-out-the-vote flier that includes a 1960s photograph of a firefighter hosing a black man that reads: "This is what they used to do to keep us from voting."
The America Coming Together (search) handout accuses Republicans of conspiring to suppress the black vote through intimidation and such tactics as putting "phony cops at polling places — but only in African American neighborhoods."
"They make African-American voters stand in line for hours, then turn them away from the polls," the flier reads. "Now (U.S. Attorney General) John Ashcroft (search) is trying to prevent African-Americans from registering to vote at all."
The Republican Party of Missouri called the fliers "racially charged" and said they were designed to obscure Republican efforts to increase black voting.
"This kind of false advertising aimed at African-Americans is clearly an attempt to intimidate and mislead voters," said Paul Sloca, a spokesman for the state GOP.
Sara Howard, ACT's Missouri spokeswoman, on Sunday defended the handouts as part of a voter-education effort. She said Republican concerns may stem from reports of increased voter registration among minorities.
"The Republican Party knows that generally when African-Americans vote in large numbers, Republicans lose," she said. "They will do everything in their power to try and prevent that from happening."
Howard said she was unaware if similar fliers are being distributed in other states.
ACT is an independent interest group funded by Democratic donors. The group has raised at least $86 million this election cycle for get-out-the-vote drives and other efforts.