Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Was there and is there voter intimidation in Florida?

The WSJ had an editorial which referred to voter intimidation in Florida in 2000 and this year as "voter fraud". Take this quote:

The real spectacle here is that some Democrats are only too willing to exploit the painful history of black voter disenfranchisement for some short-term partisan advantage.

So, I have taken many different sources and have pieced together different perspectives on voter fraud. Here we go:

From Greg Palast's website:

The biggest wholesale theft occurred inside the voting booths in black rural counties. In Gadsden County, one of the blackest in the state, thousands of votes were simply thrown away. Gadsden used paper ballots which are read by an optical reader. Ballots with a single extra mark were considered “spoiled“ and not counted. The buttons used to fill out the ballots were set up – with approval from Bush and Harris – to make votes appear unclear to the machine. One in eight ballots in Gadsden was voided by the state.

From the New York Times:

"The documents were reviewed by F.D.L.E., as well as the Florida Division of Elections. It was determined that there was no basis to support the allegations of election fraud concerning these absentee ballots. Since there is no evidence of criminal misconduct involving Mayor Dyer, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement considers this matter closed."

Well, it's not closed. And department officials said yesterday that the letter sent out in May was never meant to indicate that the "entire" investigation was closed. Since the letter went out, state troopers have gone into the homes of 40 or 50 black voters, most of them elderly, in what the department describes as a criminal investigation. Many longtime Florida observers have said the use of state troopers for this type of investigation is extremely unusual, and it has caused a storm of controversy.

From Truthout:

Baxter, now 44, won clemency and has voted repeatedly for years, most recently in the 2000 presidential election.
Because of her felony conviction, Baxter, who cleans rooms at a Ramada Inn, has never been able to qualify for better-paying work. Even so, she never thought her record would keep her from voting.
"I really do want to vote," said Baxter, a Democrat.
U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Miami, said he was outraged at The Herald's findings.
"What they are doing here is illegal, and it goes beyond a simple voting rights issue," he said. "It shows a complete lack of respect for individual rights. They're making people do this, hoping they won't have time. This reminds me of the Jim Crow laws of the 1950s and 1960s in Mississippi. It just sickens me."

From Spiegel:

The big story out of Florida over the weekend was the tragic devastation caused by Hurricane Charley. But there's another story from Florida that deserves our attention.
State police officers have gone into the homes of elderly black voters in Orlando and interrogated them as part of an odd "investigation" that has frightened many voters, intimidated elderly volunteers and thrown a chill over efforts to get out the black vote in November.

From Commondreams:

In the 2000 presidential election, 1.9 million Americans cast ballots that no one counted. "Spoiled votes" is the technical term. The pile of ballots left to rot has a distinctly dark hue: About 1 million of them -- half of the rejected ballots -- were cast by African Americans although black voters make up only 12 percent of the electorate.

From the BBC:

Several witnesses described being intimidated by police roadblocks near polling stations and being asked to produce several identity documents before being allowed to vote. Others spoke of being wrongly listed as convicted criminals.

From Townhall.com:

Larry Elder: Peter, John Kerry said a million black voters were disenfranchised. I assume he means all over the country, not just in Florida, in the year 2000. Is that true?
Peter Kirsanow: No, absolutely not. This kind of rhetoric has been trafficked in for the last going-on-four years now by a number of individuals. It's kind of surprising that a presidential candidate would actually do the same. But, as you may recall, before the polls were even closed in Florida during the 2000 election, activists had descended upon the state and already were proclaiming that voters were being disenfranchised, harassed, intimidated. In fact, some people were saying that dogs and hoses were being used on black voters and that tens of thousands were either being obstructed from going to the polls or otherwise harassed. There was a six-month investigation by the U.S. Civil Rights Commission . . . also an investigation by the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department. . . . There was absolutely no truth to any of those allegations . . . not one person who was intimidated . . . (or) had their vote stolen. There was no disenfranchisement . . . no truth to any of those allegations.

From the Nation:

Despite one well-reported incident involving a police checkpoint near a polling place, disfranchisement 2000-style did not depend on intimidation. Cattle prods and attack dogs, the legacy of former Birmingham Commissioner of Public Safety Bull Connor, were nowhere in evidence. Instead, Florida state elections officials and hired data crunchers used computers to target thousands of voters, many of whom were then purged from the voter rolls without reason. And many thousands more saw their votes thrown out as a result of error-prone voting machines and poorly designed ballots, the results of an underfunded and chaotic electoral system.
In all, some 200,000 Floridians were either not permitted to vote in the November 7 election on questionable or possibly illegal grounds, or saw their ballots discarded and not counted. A large and disproportionate number were black.

Another from Commondreams:

In Miami-Dade County, voters in heavily African-American precincts were three times more likely to have not recorded a vote for president than in precincts where black voters made up less than 30 percent of the population. The rejection rates were easily enough to have affected the outcome of the election.
Patronizing, if not racist, Republican strategists imply that black voters displayed a low IQ in the voting booth. ''The NAACP did a tremendous job of turnout in Florida,'' a Republican strategist told the Post. ''But in a way, they overachieved and got people out who couldn't follow instructions.''

From Salon:

The cops, armed and dangerous, have questioned voters in their homes, as well as volunteers involved in "get out the vote" activities. Officials refuse to state what criminal activity took place, but acknowledge that they are focusing on elderly blacks who are members of the Orlando League of Voters. This organization has successfully mobilized the black vote through registration, helping the elderly to understand the ballot, and drive people to the polls, all legal activities the last time I checked.

As Herbert states, "The vile smell of voter suppression is all over this so-called investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement." People are afraid they're going to jail simply for voting absentee, and apparently many who have voted absentee are now "refusing to allow campaign workers to come to their homes." It has cast a chill on the volunteers as well, since no one wants armed and dangerous strangers on a political witch hunt to come to their doors. He closes his article with "The long and ugly tradition of suppressing the black vote is alive and thriving in the Sunshine state."

You get the idea. This is a complex debate which, to me, if you didn't experience the wrongs, you'd be only to decide what happened. I'm not in Florida, so I have no idea what is going on down there, but the debate does concern me. The ones on the right want to ignore it, deny it, say it never happened, those on the left want to use it to paint the right as callous racists. This is something that should not be laid to rest.

Also, check out this Vote 2000 report. There is some real first hand info in this. I wonder what the right has to say about this?

Cathy Jackson, an African American woman, has been a registered voter in Broward County since 1996. Upon registering in Broward County, Ms. Jackson was told that if she ever experienced a problem with her voter registration card, she would be allowed to vote if she could produce a valid driver’s license. Ms. Jackson voted in Broward without any incident using her driver’s license since 1996. However, when she went to her polling place, Precinct 52Z, on November 7, 2000, she was told that her name was not on the list. The poll workers suggested that she travel back to her old precinct in Miami-Dade County to vote. Ms. Jackson did as she was advised even though she had voted in Broward County since she moved from Miami-Dade County in 1996. After waiting 45 minutes at her old precinct, the poll workers in Miami-Dade told Ms. Jackson that her name was not on the rolls and referred her back to Broward to vote.

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