May 01, 2004

Take Gadsden County. Of Florida's sixty-seven counties, Gadsden has the highest proportion of black residents: 58 percent. It also has the highest "spoilage" rate, that is, ballots tossed out on technicalities: one in eight votes cast but not counted.

There is an Electoral Uprising coming...The November
election is a national referendum on the CHARACTER,
CREDIBILITY and COMPETENCE of the incredible shrinking
_resident...But...

Greg Palast, The Nation: Take Gadsden County. Of Florida's sixty-seven counties, Gadsden has the highest proportion of black residents: 58 percent. It also has the highest "spoilage" rate, that is, ballots tossed out on technicalities: one in eight votes cast but not counted. Next door to Gadsden is
white-majority Leon County, where virtually every vote
is counted (a spoilage rate of one in 500). How do
votes spoil? Apparently, any old odd mark on a ballot
will do it. In Gadsden, some voters wrote in Al Gore
instead of checking his name. Their votes did not
count.

Thwart the Theft of a Second Presidential Election,
Show Up for Democracy in 2004: Defeat Bush (again!)


http://www.commondreams.org/views04/0430-10.htm
Published in the May 17, 2004 issue of The Nation
Vanishing Votes
by Gregory Palast

On October 29, 2002, George W. Bush signed the Help
America Vote Act (HAVA). Hidden behind its
apple-pie-and-motherhood name lies a nasty civil
rights time bomb.

First, the purges. In the months leading up to the
November 2000 presidential election, Florida Secretary
of State Katherine Harris, in coordination with
Governor Jeb Bush, ordered local election supervisors
to purge 57,700 voters from the registries, supposedly
ex-cons not allowed to vote in Florida. At least 90.2
percent of those on this "scrub" list, targeted to
lose their civil rights, are innocent. Notably, more
than half--about 54 percent--are black or Hispanic.
You can argue all night about the number ultimately
purged, but there's no argument that this electoral
racial pogrom ordered by Jeb Bush's operatives gave
the White House to his older brother. HAVA not only
blesses such purges, it requires all fifty states to
implement a similar search-and-destroy mission against
vulnerable voters. Specifically, every state must, by
the 2004 election, imitate Florida's system of
computerizing voter files. The law then empowers fifty
secretaries of state--fifty Katherine Harrises--to
purge these lists of "suspect" voters.

The purge is back, big time. Following the disclosure
in December 2000 of the black voter purge in Britain's
Observer newspaper, NAACP lawyers sued the state. The
civil rights group won a written promise from Governor
Jeb and from Harris's successor to return wrongly
scrubbed citizens to the voter rolls. According to
records given to the courts by ChoicePoint, the
company that generated the computerized lists, the
number of Floridians who were questionably tagged
totals 91,000. Willie Steen is one of them. Recently,
I caught up with Steen outside his office at a Tampa
hospital. Steen's case was easy. You can't work in a
hospital if you have a criminal record. (My copy of
Harris's hit list includes an ex-con named O'Steen,
close enough to cost Willie Steen his vote.) The NAACP
held up Steen's case to the court as a prime example
of the voter purge evil.

The state admitted Steen's innocence. But a year after
the NAACP won his case, Steen still couldn't register.
Why was he still under suspicion? What do we know
about this "potential felon," as Jeb called him?
Steen, unlike our President, honorably served four
years in the US military. There is, admittedly, a
suspect mark on his record: Steen remains an
African-American.

If you're black, voting in America is a game of
chance. First, there's the chance your registration
card will simply be thrown out. Millions of minority
citizens registered to vote using what are called
motor-voter forms. And Republicans know it. You would
not be surprised to learn that the Commission on Civil
Rights found widespread failures to add these voters
to the registers. My sources report piles of
dust-covered applications stacked up in election
offices.

Second, once registered, there's the chance you'll be
named a felon. In Florida, besides those fake felons
on Harris's scrub sheets, some 600,000 residents are
legally barred from voting because they have a
criminal record in the state. That's one state. In the
entire nation 1.4 million black men with sentences
served can't vote, 13 percent of the nation's black
male population.

At step three, the real gambling begins. The Voting
Rights Act of 1965 guaranteed African-Americans the
right to vote--but it did not guarantee the right to
have their ballots counted. And in one in seven cases,
they aren't.

Take Gadsden County. Of Florida's sixty-seven
counties, Gadsden has the highest proportion of black
residents: 58 percent. It also has the highest
"spoilage" rate, that is, ballots tossed out on
technicalities: one in eight votes cast but not
counted. Next door to Gadsden is white-majority Leon
County, where virtually every vote is counted (a
spoilage rate of one in 500). How do votes spoil?
Apparently, any old odd mark on a ballot will do it.
In Gadsden, some voters wrote in Al Gore instead of
checking his name. Their votes did not count.

Harvard law professor Christopher Edley Jr., a member
of the Commission on Civil Rights, didn't like the
smell of all those spoiled ballots. He dug into the
pile of tossed ballots and, deep in the commission's
official findings, reported this: 14.4 percent of
black votes--one in seven--were "invalidated," i.e.,
never counted. By contrast, only 1.6 percent of
nonblack voters' ballots were spoiled.

Florida's electorate is 11 percent African-American.
Florida refused to count 179,855 spoiled ballots. A
little junior high school algebra applied to
commission numbers indicates that 54 percent, or
97,000, of the votes "spoiled" were cast by black
folk, of whom more than 90 percent chose Gore. The
nonblack vote divided about evenly between Gore and
Bush. Therefore, had Harris allowed the counting of
these ballots, Al Gore would have racked up a
plurality of about 87,000 votes in Florida--162 times
Bush's official margin of victory.

That's Florida. Now let's talk about America. In the
2000 election, 1.9 million votes cast were never
counted. Spoiled for technical reasons, like writing
in Gore's name, machine malfunctions and so on. The
reasons for ballot rejection vary, but there's a
suspicious shading to the ballots tossed into the
dumpster. Edley's team of Harvard experts discovered
that just as in Florida, the number of ballots spoiled
was--county by county, precinct by precinct--in direct
proportion to the local black voting population.

Florida's racial profile mirrors the nation's--both in
the percentage of voters who are black and the racial
profile of the voters whose ballots don't count. "In
2000, a black voter in Florida was ten times as likely
to have their vote spoiled--not counted--as a white
voter," explains political scientist Philip Klinkner,
co-author of Edley's Harvard report. "National figures
indicate that Florida is, surprisingly, typical. Given
the proportion of nonwhite to white voters in America,
then, it appears that about half of all ballots
spoiled in the USA, as many as 1 million votes, were
cast by nonwhite voters."

So there you have it. In the last presidential
election, approximately 1 million black and other
minorities voted, and their ballots were thrown away.
And they will be tossed again in November 2004,
efficiently, by computer--because HAVA and other bogus
reform measures, stressing reform through complex
computerization, do not address, and in fact worsen,
the racial bias of the uncounted vote.

One million votes will disappear in a puff of very
black smoke. And when the smoke clears, the Bush clan
will be warming their political careers in the light
of the ballot bonfire. HAVA nice day.

Gregory Palast, a reporter and columnist for Britain's
Observer newspaper, is investigating the Florida vote
story for BBC television. Author of The Best Democracy
Money Can Buy: The Truth About Corporate Cons,
Globalization and High-Finance Fraudsters

Copyright 2004 The Nation

Posted by richard at May 1, 2004 10:46 AM