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Democracy Subverted - November 2000 Election Irregularities
"You may have the votes, but I have the count." - Ferdinand Marcos; Bush (senior) backed Philippines dictator
So when Bush succeeds in stealing the Presidency, the song will no longer be called, "Hail to the Chief." It will be, "Hail to the Thief." - Sue Hodges
"More chills than I Know What You Did In Texas" [the DNC]
"Superb acting job by supporting cast James Baker, Karen Hughes, and Dade protesters, but George 'dubya' stole the show. Despite losing the national vote and trailing in electoral votes, the controversial ending has him become President via a few hundred votes in a state where his brother is Governor, his party campaign co-chair certifies the winner, and a recount is blocked by a judge his father appointed, whose son is a partner in the legal firm representing him. GOP ticket buyer's got their money's worth but American taxpayer's should get a full refund!" [ProgressivesOnline]
"Harris's Indecent Proposal to certify the votes shows a Fatal Attraction to partisanship that may convince Jeb Bush to advance her career the Same Time Next Year." [Maureen Dowd, New York Times]
"It’s got all the ingredients—a mysterious electoral college, weird tabulating procedures, missing ballots, lawsuits—as well as photogenic lead characters". [Variety]
AN ASIDE 2020 Deja vu??
Here we are twenty years later and the 2020 election between Joe Biden and Donald Trump is too close to call on the evening of the election. Former Vice President Biden calls for patience and says "it's ain't over till ALL the ballots are counted. Meanwhile President Trump blatantly seeks to undermine democracy with false claim of victory, attempting to subvert election. The morning after the election Trump declares himself the winner with only 213 electoral votes versus 227 electoral votes for Joe Biden and millions of mail in ballots still not counted. The odd makers give Biden the election once the mail in votes are counted.
I'm suppose to be searching for a local company expert at upholstery, or actually reupholstery for our worn living room furniture, especially the sofa. I don't think they are all that terrible looking, but my partner insists. However my anxiety about the election keeps me clicking on the news sites to see what's happening. Some of the headlines are really disconcerting, such as USPS disregards court order to conduct sweeps in 12 postal districts after more than 300,000 ballots can’t be traced or Congressional Democrats’ hopes dashed: GOP clings to Senate majority, scores unexpected gains in House. And once again the media and pollsters blew it, predicting that the American people had had enough of Trump and his disastrous Covid 19 pandemic response.
After Googling "furniture reupholstery nyc" I finally found a company that I think fits the criteria my partner wants. Check them out: reupholstery.nyc. I see excellent reviews, and I coincidentally found a previous customer who raves about them. I'm deciding to have all my upholstered furniture redone, including the dining room chairs and the lounge in the den. All I have to do is select the fabrics, note any specific instructions, and they'll pick up. Pretty easy. The only hard part is choosing the fabrics, but you can't reupholster without them, and there are so many options! But first I have to check the NYTimes, Washington Post, The Atlantic, Politico, and Zero Hedge and Breitbart- just to see what Trump supporters are saying and to see if there are any changes.
"A LAYMAN'S GUIDE TO THE SUPREME COURT DECISION IN BUSH V. GORE by Mark H. Levine, Attorney at Law.
A LAYMAN'S GUIDE TO THE SUPREME COURT DECISION IN BUSH V. GORE
by Mark H. Levine, Attorney at Law.
Q: I'm not a lawyer and I don't understand the recent Supreme Court decision in Bush v. Gore. Can you explain it to me?
A: Sure. I'm a lawyer. I read it. It says Bush wins, even if Gore got the most votes.
Q: So Bush wins because hand-counts are illegal?
A: Oh no. Six of the justices (two-thirds majority) believed the hand-counts were legal and should be done.
Q: Oh. So the justices did not believe that the hand-counts would find any legal ballots?
- Nope. The five conservative justices clearly held (and all nine justices agreed) "that punch card balloting machines can produce an unfortunate number of ballots which are not punched in a clean, complete way by the voter." So there are legal votes that should be counted but can't be.
Q: Oh. Does this have something to do with states' rights? Don't conservatives love that?
A: Generally yes. These five justices, in the past few years, have held that the federal government has no business telling a sovereign state university it can't steal trade secrets just because such stealing is prohibited by law. Nor does the federal government have any business telling a state that it should bar guns in schools. Nor can the federal government use the equal protection clause to force states to take measures to stop violence against women.
Q: Is there an exception in this case?
A: Yes, the Gore exception. States have no rights to have their own state elections when it can result in Gore being elected President. This decision is limited to only this situation.
Q: C'mon. The Supremes didn't really say that. You're exaggerating.
A: Nope. They held "Our consideration is limited to the present circumstances, or the problem of equal protection in election processes generally presents many complexities."
Q: What complexities?
A: They don't say.
Q: I'll bet I know the reason. I heard Jim Baker say this. The votes can't be counted because the Florida Supreme Court "changed the rules of the election after it was held." Right?
- Dead wrong. The US Supreme Court made clear that the Florida Supreme Court did not change the rules of the election. But the US Supreme Court found the failure of the Florida Court to change the rules was wrong.
A: The Legislature declared that the only legal standard for counting vote is "clear intent of the voter." The Florida Court was condemned for not adopting a clearer standard.
Q: I thought the Florida Court was not allowed to change the Legislature's law after the election.
Q: So what's the problem?
A: They should have. The US Supreme Court said the Florida Supreme Court should have "adopt[ed] adequate statewide standards for determining what is a legal vote"
Q: I thought only the Legislature could "adopt" new law.
Q: So if the Court had adopted new standards, I thought it would have been overturned.
A: Right. You're catching on.
Q: If the Court had adopted new standards, it would have been overturned for changing the rules. And if it didn't, it's overturned for not changing the rules. That means that no matter what the Florida Supreme Court did, legal votes could never be counted.
A: Right. Next question.
Q: Wait, wait. I thought the problem was "equal protection," that some counties counted votes differently from others. Isn't that a problem?
A: It sure is. Across the nation, we vote in a hodgepodge of systems. Some, like the optical-scanners in largely Republican-leaning counties record 99.7% of the votes. Some, like the punchcard systems in largely Democratic-leaning counties record only 97% of the votes. So approximately 3% of Democratic votes are thrown in the trash can.
Q: Aha! That's a severe equal-protection problem!!!
A: No it's not. The Supreme Court wasn't worried about the 3% of Democratic ballots thrown in the trashcan in Florida. That "complexity" was not a problem.
Q: Was it the butterfly ballots that violated Florida law and tricked more than 20,000 Democrats to vote for Buchanan or Gore and Buchanan.
A: Nope. The Supreme Court has no problem believing that Buchanan got his highest, best support in a precinct consisting of a Jewish old age home with Holocaust survivors, who apparently have changed their mind about Hitler.
Q: Yikes. So what was the serious equal protection problem?
A: The problem was neither the butterfly ballot nor the 3% of Democrats (largely African-American) disenfranchised. The problem is that somewhat less than .005% of the ballots may have been determined under slightly different standards because judges sworn to uphold the law and doing their best to accomplish the legislative mandate of "clear intent of the voter" may have a slightly different opinion about the voter's intent.
Q: Hmmm. OK, so if those votes are thrown out, you can still count the votes where everyone agrees the voter's intent is clear?
Q: Why not?
A: No time.
Q: No time to count legal votes where everyone, even Republicans, agree the intent is clear? Why not?
A: Because December 12 was yesterday.
Q: Is December 12 a deadline for counting votes?
A: No. January 6 is the deadline. In 1960, Hawaii's votes weren't counted until January 4.
Q: So why is December 12 important?
A: December 12 is a deadline by which Congress can't challenge the results.
Q: What does the Congressional role have to do with the Supreme Court?
Q: But I thought ---
A: The Florida Supreme Court had earlier held it would like to complete its work by December 12 to make things easier for Congress. The United States Supreme Court is trying to help the Florida Supreme Court out by forcing the Florida court to abide by a deadline that everyone agrees is not binding.
Q: But I thought the Florida Court was going to just barely have the votes counted by December 12.
A: They would have made it, but the five conservative justices stopped the recount last Saturday.
A: Justice Scalia said some of the counts may not be legal.
Q: So why not separate the votes into piles, indentations for Gore, hanging chads for Bush, votes that everyone agrees went to one candidate or the other so that we know exactly how Florida voted before determining who won? Then, if some ballots (say, indentations) have to be thrown out, the American people will know right away who won Florida.
- Great idea! The US Supreme Court rejected it. They held that such counts would likely to produce election results showing Gore won and Gore's winning would cause "public acceptance" and that would "cast a cloud" over Bush's "legitimacy" that would harm "democratic stability."
Q: In other words, if America knows the truth that Gore won, they won't accept the US Supreme Court overturning Gore's victory?
Q: Is that a legal reason to stop recounts? or a political one?
A: Let's just say in all of American history and all of American law, this reason has no basis in law. But that doesn't stop the five conservatives from creating new law out of thin air.
Q: Aren't these conservative justices against judicial activism?
A: Yes, when liberal judges are perceived to have done it.
Q: Well, if the December 12 deadline is not binding, why not count the votes?
A: The US Supreme Court, after admitting the December 12 deadline is not binding, set December 12 as a binding deadline at 10 p.m. on December 12.
Q: Didn't the US Supreme Court condemn the Florida Supreme Court for arbitrarily setting a deadline?
Q: But, but --
A: Not to worry. The US Supreme Court does not have to follow laws it sets for other courts.
Q: So who caused Florida to miss the December 12 deadline?
A: The Bush lawyers who first went to court to stop the recount, the mob in Miami that got paid Florida vacations for intimidating officials, and the US Supreme Court for stopping the recount.
Q: So who is punished for this behavior?
A: Gore, of course.
Q: Tell me this: Florida's laws are unconstitutional, right?
Q: And the laws of 50 states that allow votes to be cast or counted differently are unconstitutional?
A: Yes. And 33 of those states have the "clear intent of the voter" standard that the US Supreme Court found was illegal in Florida.
Q: Then why aren't the results of 33 states thrown out?
A: Um. Because...um.....the Supreme Court doesn't say...
Q: But if Florida's certification includes counts expressly declared by the US Supreme Court to be unconstitutional, we don't know who really won the election there, right?
A: Right. Though a careful analysis by the Miami Herald shows Gore won Florida by about 20,000 votes (excluding the butterfly ballot errors).
Q: So, what do we do, have a re-vote? Throw out the entire state? Count all ballots under a single uniform standard?
A: No. We just don't count the votes that favor Gore.
Q: That's completely bizarre! That sounds like rank political favoritism! Did the justices have any financial interest in the case?
A: Scalia's two sons are both lawyers working for Bush. Thomas's wife is collecting applications for people who want to work in the Bush administration.
Q: Why didn't they recuse themselves?
A: If either had recused himself, the vote would be 4-4, and the Florida Supreme Court decision allowing recounts would have been affirmed.
Q: I can't believe the justices acted in such a blatantly political way.
A: Read the opinions for yourself: http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/supremecourt/00-949_dec12.fdf (December 9 stay stopping the recount), and http://www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/00pdf/00-949.pdf (December 12 final opinion)
Q: So what are the consequences of this?
A: The guy who got the most votes in the US and in Florida and under our Constitution (Al Gore) will lose to America's second choice who won the all important 5-4 Supreme Court vote.
Q: I thought in a democracy, the guy with the most votes wins.
A: True, in a democracy. But America is not a democracy. In America, in the year 2000, the guy with the most US Supreme Court votes wins.
Q: Is there any way to stop the Supreme Court from doing this again?
A: YES. No federal judge can be confirmed without a vote in the Senate. It takes 60 votes to break a filibuster. If only 41 of the 50 Democratic Senators stand up to Bush and his Supremes and say that they will not approve a single judge appointed by him until a President can be democratically elected in 2004, the judicial reign of terror can end... and one day we can hope to return to the rule of law.
Q: What do I do now?
A: E-mail this to everyone you know, and write or call your senator, reminding him that Gore beat Bush by several hundred thousand votes (three times Kennedy's margin over Nixon) and that you believe that VOTERS rather than JUDGES should determine who wins an election by counting every vote. And to protect our judiciary from overturning the will of the people, you want them to confirm NO NEW JUDGES until 2004 when a president is finally chosen by most of the American people.
I read this in the University of Southern Mississippi student paper on a recent trip to the campus. This is the most objective and clear discussion of the punch card issue that I've read and thought others might find it informative. The article is found at www.printz.usm.edu - Dave Wells
To the editors:
I'm an election judge in Dallas County and I have been in the computer business long enough (early 1970's) to have actually used punch cards. So, here's my take on the Florida election: Machines are used for counting votes because they are much faster then humans, not because they are more accurate - they aren't. The machines have a known error rate. In the case of punched card machines, it is considered to be in the two to five percent range. For most elections, this is just fine since elections are generally decided by a margin of at least five percent. The 14,000 votes in Palm Beach County that were not counted by machine in a previous election were not hand counted for a simple reason: the margin of votes between the candidates was greater then 14,000 votes, so, a hand-count would not affect the outcome of the election.
In fact, hand-counts are only done when the hand-count could change the result of the election. In Florida, Governor Bush is ahead by approximately 1,000 votes out of approximately 6,000,000 votes cast. In other words, Mr. Bush is only ahead by 0.016% . In this situation, an error rate of 2% (assuming the best case for the counting machines) is well beyond precision of the counting machines. This is equivalent to a poll in which the results were 49.0 percent for Mr. Gore and 49.016% for Mr. Bush with a 2% margin of error. In other words, the election is too close to call because the margin of victory needs to be much greater then it is now for the public to have any confidence in the result without a hand-count. If Mr. Bush were ahead by 200,000 votes that would still only be a 3.3 percent margin - just barely within the tolerance of the counting equipment.
As for the hand recount. This is a misnomer. The important ballots are not those that were counted by the counting machines. It is the ballots that were not counted because the machines could not read them that are important. The error rate on the ballots that the machines actually counted is quite low because the machines are designed to reject a ballot rather then count it incorrectly. In a sense, the error rate on the uncounted ballots is 100%. Many votes were rejected because the chad was pushed back into the hole when it went through the machine, or the chad was punctured instead of falling out. These ballots have never been counted - only rejected by the machines.
The chads that are falling out are not ones where all four corners are still attached. The ballots have to be quite sturdy to withstand the punishment of being put through high speed counting machines. The chads that are falling off are ones where the chad is already partially detached. I can assure you that the people who are counting these ballots by hand are treating the ballots with kid gloves, compared to the counting machines. Far more chads fall off in the counting machines then when the ballots are counted by hand.
In fact, the first time the ballots are put through the counting machine is the time when the largest number of partially attached chads will fall off. But again, the ballots are quite sturdy. Most of the chads that fall off in the counting machines are ones that are already partially detached: the so-called hanging-door chads in which two of the four perforations are broken through.
So, here's the bottom line: if 10,000 votes were not counted by the counting machines in one Florida county, this is ten times the margin by which Mr. Bush is ahead. If only 20% of those votes can be discerned by manual counting, that could easily be enough to change the result of the election.
The ballots used in the votamatic machines have approximately eighty locations where the card can be punched. The condition of the card material, the alignment of the card in the machine, the alignment of the voter booklet (containing the candidates' names), and even the punch location can have an impact on how the ballot responds to being punched by the stylus. It is commonly held that the location on the ballot most difficult to punch cleanly is the four corners of the ballot. In the presidential election, the major presidential candidates were punched in punches one through five. This is the MOST DIFFICULT area of the ballot to get a clean punch.
Dimpled chads are generally counted as votes because of the difficulty of getting a clean punch and the improbability that a dimple isn't typically created in a ballot simply by handling it. Additionally, it is highly improbable that a dimple, not created by a voter would occur in the ballot in the exact punch position for a candidate in a particular race. In fact, on the typical votamatic ballot, half of the positions on the ballot are not used at all. (The candidate punch positions are spaced out over the entire ballot because spreading out the punch positions makes it easier to space the printing in the ballot book and because spreading out the punches makes it easier to get a clean punch in a particular hole. If dimples were to be created in ballots from simple handling, these dimples would randomly occur in the unused punch positions, not in the position for a particular candidate in a particular race. All of these factors combine to create the overwhelming evidence that a dimpled chad is actually a vote. For this reason, most state laws and court cases require that dimpled chad be counted as votes.
It is obvious that the ballots should have been hand-counted in every county where a significant number of ballots were rejected by the counting equipment. They should certainly be counted in the four counties that have recounts underway due to the number of rejected ballots compared to the margin by which Mr. Bush is ahead. There are probably other counties where a hand count should have taken place. I'm not an attorney so I don't have an opinion on whether the Bush Campaign should be allowed to go back and ask for those recounts.
One thing is for sure: a coin toss with a 50% probability of winning is more likely to provide an accurate result then a 0.016% lead resulting from a machine count. Geoff Staples
Simple but useful analogy about vote counts On CNN I heard a caller call in on Wolf Blitzer's Sunday morning news show and pose a question to congressman Sinunu (sp?).
"If you put a dollar in a soda machine, and the machine spits it back out, would you throw that dollar away?"
The point is that we shouldn't be saying that votes were "counted" when they were never registered by the counting machines, just like the soda machine failed to register the dollar. Needless to say, nobody would throw away a legal dollar bill just because the soda machine couldn't read it. Likewise, we shouldn't be throwing away legal votes just because the counting machines couldn't read them.
Rejected ballots in Gadsden County, Florida Short Excerpt from Tallahassee Democrat
QUINCY -- Gadsden County elections officials rejected hundreds of ballots cast in the presidential race because voters chose more than one candidate for president -- usually Democrat Al Gore and a candidate other than Republican George W. Bush.
County elections officials on Wednesday continued to display 3,200 rejected ballots at the request of residents and candidates who participated in local elections. About 1,000 of the ballots had errors in races other than the presidential race.
Discarded ballots were shown last week at the request of Democrats who wanted to ensure that election was conducted properly. Democrats withdrew that request Wednesday, but county elections officials continued to display the ballots for anybody who wanted to see them.
Twelve percent of the ballots in Gadsden County were disqualified. The reported statewide average was not quite 3 percent. ......
One only needs to look at Palm Beach results in other races, besides the presidential contest, to understand that something went wrong with the balloting. Where an astonishing 19,000 Palm Beach presidential ballots had to be discarded because voters picked more than one candidate -- known as overvoting -- the rate was far less for other races. The Palm Beach overvote rate was .13 percent in the race for Florida's education commissioner, .13 percent for insurance commissioner and .82 percent for U.S. Senate. For the presidential race, though, the overvote rate jumped to 4.1 percent.
Given what's at stake, what's needed is more transparency, not less. Instead of cutting short the manual recount in Palm Beach County, a manual recount ought to be sought for each of the 14 Florida counties whose final tallies still have not been certified by the secretary of state.
From Email: Abnormally High Disqualification Rate: Palm Beach, Gadsden, Glades and Miami-Dade Counties in Florida
Much has been said about Palm Beach County - home of the now-infamous butterfly ballot - and the residents who had their votes thrown out because of mistakes in the voting booth. But the disqualification rate was much worse in places with large African-American populations. For example, 6 percent of the residents in Palm Beach County misvoted, but in rural Gadsden County, it was 12 percent, and in rural Glades County, 11 percent. And in certain predominantly black precincts in Miami-Dade County, 10 percent of the votes were thrown out. The most common problem was "overvoting" - botching the ballot by voting for more than one candidate. "[It's] much, much more than I've ever seen anywhere else in the country," says Kim Brace of Elections Data Services. According to Brace, more than 100,000 Floridians overvoted, 30 times more often than past presidential elections.
From Email: FBI asked to investigate -already marked ballots --- In email@example.com, Bruce Tanner brtanner@p... Yeah, I saw this in the Sunday (London) Times. Hasn't been touched in the U.S. media that I can see. The guard dog is asleep. Not to mention its chain is too short.
from THE SUNDAY TIMES online, Monday November 13, 2000
GORE CAMP DEMANDS FBI INQUIRY by Daniel McGrory in Miami
The FBI is being asked to investigate how thousands of mainly black supporters of Al Gore were given ballot papers that had allegedly already been marked for rival candidates.
Yesterday Democrat officials were examining claims that up to 17,000 ballot papers in the Miami area had been tampered with in what they described as "organised corruption".
From: Jeni Salljenisall@i... Subject: Two websites with important information One Florida voter's account:
This one describes the experience of a Palm Beach County voter. Incredible! Definitely worthwhile reading:
13 Myths about the 2000 elections This one presents "13 myths" about the 2000 elections. Fascinating. Unfortunately, the Republican spin machine is working very well. This situation feels so similar to Watergate!
We MUST fight, but HOW? It's so infuriating.- Jeni Sall
From Email: Actually, the recount issue is only half the story. There is mounting evidence that the State of Florida and hundreds of local voting precincts restricted the ability of thousands of non-white voters to vote. Violations were so widespread that the election could be invalidated in court, according to the NAACP.
-Ballots ran out in certain precincts according to the LA Times on 11/10/00.
-Carpools of African-American voters were stopped by police, according to the Los Angeles Times (11/10/00). In some cases, officers demanded to see a "taxi license".
-Polls closed with people still in line in Tampa, according to the Associated Press.
-In Osceola County, ballots did not line up properly, possibly causing Gore voters to have their ballots cast for Harry Browne. Also, Hispanic voters were required to produce two forms of ID when only one is required. (source: Associated Press)
-Dozens, and possibly hundreds, of voters in Broward County were unable to vote because the Supervisor of Elections did not have enough staff to verify changes of address.
-Voters were mistakenly removed from voter rolls because their names were similar to those of ex-cons, according to Mother Jones magazine.
-According to Reuters news service (11/8/00), many voters received pencils rather than pens when they voted, in violation of state law.
-According to the Miami Herald, many Haitian-American voters were turned away from precincts where they were voting for the first time (11/10/00)
-According to Feed Magazine (www.feedmag.com), the mayoral candidate whose election in Miami was overturned due to voter fraud, Xavier Suarez, said he was involved in preparing absentee ballots for George W. Bush. (11/9/00)
-Dan Rather reported that in Volusia County, Socialist Workers Party candidate James Harris won 9,888 votes possibly as the result of a computer error. He only won 583 in the rest of the state (11/9/00). County-level results for Florida are at cnn.com.
-Many African-American first-time voters who registered at motor vehicles offices or in campus voter registration drives did not appear on the voting rolls, according to a hearing conducted by the NAACP and televised on C-SPAN on 11/12/00.
ABC News proves GOP behind protests in Miami Dade.
Nov. 24 - In an apparent exercise of spontaneous public outrage, demonstrators surged through the county office building in Miami-Dade County Wednesday, demanding an end to the hand recount there. The shouting demonstrators, accusing Democratic election officials of taking the count behind closed doors, contributed to one election supervisor 's vote to end the hand recount. Protesters try to stop Miami recounts.
"If what I'd envisioned worked out and there were no objections, we'd be up there now counting," election supervisor David Leahy said. But that demonstration, ABCNEWS has learned, was neither spontaneous, nor local. It was an organized Republican Party protest, run by 75 party operatives out of a headquarters in a motor home in Miami, and six Democratic Congressmen have written a letter to the Justice Department urging it "to investigate what may be an egregious effort to undermine" the right of voters in Dade County. In a statement this afternoon, Democratic vice-presidential candidate Sen. Joe Lieberman said he believed the demonstrations intended to stop the recounting of the votes.
"These demonstrations were clearly designed to intimidate and to prevent a simple count of votes from going forward," Lieberman said. "This is a time to honor the rule of law, not surrender to the rule of the mob." Now the operatives and their motor home are in Broward County, where a manual recount is still going on. "There are paid political operatives from out of state who have come down to South Florida" and helped stop the recount in Miami, said Congressman Peter Deutsch, D-Fla. "I think we need to immediately have a federal investigation of this attempt to stop a fair and accurate count." But Republican Party lawyer Theodore Olson told ABCNEWS' Good Morning America he thought the protests were part of the democratic process. "If citizens of the United States are voluntarily objecting to the process where the rules change, and where Democratic officials take these ballots behind closed doors where they can't be observers, I think American citizens are entitled to do that sort of thing," Olson said.
Lieberman said the demonstrations should stop and asked the Bush-Cheney campaign to call off the demonstrators. "We need a fair count of the ballots in question and that must include freedom from intimidation," he said. The Bush campaign did not return two phone calls today from ABCNEWS.com. Motor Home Heads North The motor home showed up at 8 a.m. today near the Broward County courthouse, where a hand recount of votes is ongoing. They came in honking and shouting, and about 100 people poured out of it and other vehicles to start a demonstration.
Some were recognized by reporters as the same people from the "spontaneous" Miami demonstration. A smaller group of about 40 Republican protesters is marching outside the recount in Palm Beach County, but they don't seem to be from the Miami motor home. In Miami, they said they were there to help the media. "We provide a service for you, for our surrogates who you want to speak to," one operative said when approached by ABCNEWS. But they also got directly involved in leading demonstrations, and were even willing to dress up in seasonal outfits to provide so-called protester color for local news reports. Operatives said they were from all over the country, including Washington, D.C., and New York.
With security much heavier in Broward than Miami-Dade, the protesters are staying put outside the building. From their position, the protesters would have to pass several layers of police protection, take two elevators and walk several hundred feet inside the building to get to the recount site. Protester-free, the recount is continuing quietly in a room in the north wing of the courthouse. Democrats seem to be laying low at the Broward protests, though they've been flying their own operatives in by the dozens daily. They're relying on local sheriffs to keep order,
Democrats said. Deutsch said Democrats were "using the rule of law in the United States of America to try and correct" what he described as "the efforts of the out-of-state paid political mob." ABCNEWS' Steve Osunsami, Bill Redeker and ABCNEWS.com's Sascha Segan contributed to this story.
Union, black leaders plan to battle GOP in courts over "Thug Tactics"
By Paul Lomartire, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer Monday, November 27, 2000
MIAMI -- Sick of what they called "thug tactics" in Miami and West Palm Beach, church, union and black leaders promised Sunday to take on the Republican Party with a battle plan minted during the civil rights movement 35 years ago.
The Rev. Al Sharpton, U.S. Rep. Carrie Meek, D-Miami, and other civil rights veterans shared the stage at a Democratic rally in front of the Stephen C. Clark Center.
"This is pure grass roots," said Monica Russo, a nursing home workers' union leader and director of Unite for Dignity.
"Our people plan to follow through in every legal way we can," Meek said. "We're not going to act like those thugs that you saw here. Our freedom was too hard to gain. We don't plan to lose it with some kind of dinosaur-like actions."
A federal lawsuit will be filed today in Miami on behalf of Dade's black voters, claiming violations of the Voting Rights Act, said A. Andrew Ingraham, a Fort Lauderdale businessman. With Sharpton acting as a friend of the court, Ingraham said the rowdy Republican protesters intimidated Miami-Dade's canvassing board into stopping its vote recount.
After Wednesday's protest in Miami, Republican organizers moved north to the Broward County courthouse, where a steady flow of free T-shirts, baseball caps and other souvenirs produced raucous anti-Gore crowds for TV viewers.
"The derogatory language used on the signs; 'Sore Loser' printed up by the (Bush) campaign," said state Sen. Kendrick Meek, D-Miami. "It's very distasteful and I'm sorry it had to come to that."
Meek, is the 34-year-old son of Miami's congresswoman.
"We'll go by the rules and whatever they do, they do," he said. "But we know the race is not to the swift."
His mother was still steamed about her treatment at the Clark Center on Wednesday. While being interviewed by an ABC reporter, Carrie Meek said, "A group of about 75 of these mobsters -- that's what they looked like to me -- pushed aside my people and they started yelling and screaming at me. Wherever I'd go, they'd follow."
Miami-Dade police rescued her. Two days earlier, her son was with the Rev. Jesse Jackson in downtown West Palm Beach when pro-Bush hecklers shouted him off the stage. Police escorted Jackson and Meek away for their own safety.
"I've never seen anything like that in my life. The kind of language that was used," said Kendrick Meek. "The threating manner. That small audience was there to be disruptive. I've never witnessed anything like that in my life."
On Sunday, Sharpton got a rude sendoff in West Palm Beach.
Leaving the Emergency Operations Center at noon, Sharpton's entourage of four was surrounded and followed by a taunting group of about 20 people carrying pro-Bush signs. They repeatedly yelled, "We don't want you and your people around here."
Sharpton ignored them and walked into the Gun Club Diner for lunch before heading south to Miami.
"Don't it seem curious that black civil rights leaders, Jesse and I, were treated like that up there?" said Sharpton, referring to West Palm Beach. "There's clearly a spirit of hatred and polarization up there."
Gore wants manual recount even in counties that may help Bush:
In some Florida counties, election officials voluntarily hand-counted ballots that machines couldn't read -- exactly what Gore wants in Miami-Dade -- and the governor Bush came out ahead. - - - - - - - - - - - - By Anthony York
Nov. 28, 2000 | For days Vice President Al Gore has focused on 10,000-plus ballots from Miami-Dade County that couldn't be counted by machine, insisting those are votes that haven't yet been counted -- and the implication is that many of those votes are his. The Bush campaign has struck back harshly, accusing Gore of demanding recount after recount until he gets results he likes.
Though the vice president's message has been muddled, the facts support Gore's claim that ballots in Miami-Dade County have not been counted as thoroughly as ballots were in certain other parts of the state. In at least four other Florida counties, election officials took it upon themselves to manually count ballots that could not be read by machine, and the result of those impromptu manual recounts was a net 185-vote gain for Gov. George W. Bush.
The first statewide recount was triggered automatically because the margin between Bush and Gore was within one half of 1 percent. Florida law allows canvassing boards wide discretion on how to handle those state-mandated recounts, and the methods used varied widely. Some counties simply reran their computerized memory cards in their electronic vote-counting machines, while others undertook full, manual recounts.
In Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties, where the Gore campaign demanded manual recounts, attention focused on the high number of ballots that did not appear to record a vote for president. In many cases, the canvassing boards were able to count a vote for one candidate or another that the machines could not read. Broward and Palm Beach went ahead with a hand count of these so-called "undervotes," which yielded hundreds of new votes for Gore. But while the Miami-Dade board seemed poised to inspect those unreadable ballots by hand, members abruptly halted those plans last Wednesday after boisterous Republican protests.
Now a pillar of Gore's strategy to contest the certified Florida election results is his allegation that those 10,000 votes were never counted. And while the Bush camp scoffs at the charge, it's clear that other counties did exactly what Gore is asking for in Miami-Dade -- but on their own, without a request from either candidate.
In Republican Seminole County -- where local Democrats are suing because Republican election officials allowed GOP party volunteers to correct absentee ballot applications that had been filled out improperly -- the canvassing board decided to manually examine unreadable ballots during the county's electronic recount. Seminole's recount yielded an additional 98 votes for Bush.
A similar procedure was followed in Polk County, where a partial manual recount resulted in Gore losing 90 votes that had apparently been counted twice. Canvassing board member Bruce Parker classified his county's actions as "a mini hand count."
In Taylor County, where Bush picked up four votes, Supervisor of Elections Molly Lilliot said all ballots were re-fed through the tabulating machine for the recount. "All ballots kicked out were examined individually by the canvassing board," she said.
"We ran all the ballots back through the machine," said Carol Tolle, supervisor of elections in Hamilton County. "Every time you had an overvote or undervote, we inspected it. If we could determine the intent of the voter, we counted those votes." In Hamilton, Gore ended up picking up seven votes.
Bush campaign spokeswoman Mindy Tucker said that under Florida law, the canvassing boards have discretion as to whether or not to inspect unreadable ballots by hand. Gore's cries about Miami undervotes, she said, were just more attempts by Gore to "continually try to change the rules in the middle of the game. The ballots were inspected by hand in some cases but not all, and under Florida law it's the canvassing board's decision legally. It's our belief that these votes have been counted."
But Gore spokesman Chris Lehane says the vice president simply wants the same attention paid to ballots in Miami-Dade as was given to ballots in other counties. And, he added, most of the counties that did conduct partial manual recounts used a more reliable optical scan system of voting, while voters in Miami-Dade used the infamous punch-card ballots, which yield many more errors than the OptiScan system.
"Keep in mind, punch cards are used in poorer areas. Most of these other ballots were optical ones where the reliability was much, much higher. And in poorer areas, you have bad machines or flawed ballots. We think we have a pretty clear and compelling argument."
Bush spokeswoman Karen Hughes remains unmoved by that argument, continuing the GOP full-court press urging Gore to give up. "Earlier this afternoon, Vice President Gore made some additional comments about his challenge to the outcome of the election in Florida," she said. "Having failed to make his case with the American people last night, he apparently felt the need to restate his arguments. The vice president said today that he wants this process to arrive at a fair, expeditious and truly democratic conclusion. As people across America are realizing, it already has."
But whether or not they receive a manual count of those 11,000 Miami ballots, the fact remains that other counties did exactly what the Gore campaign is asking Miami to do, and Hughes' boss benefited.
Date: Wed Nov 29, 2000 8:25pm
Subject: Presidential Salute
So when Bush succeeds in stealing the Presidency, the song will no longer be
called, "Hail to the Chief." It will be, "Hail to the Theif." Someone should
let the populace know.
Florida Supervisor Says GOP Officials Corrected Ballots
November 28, 2000 From the LA Times
Sanford, Fla. -- The supervisor of elections in Seminole County has conceded that she allowed two
Republican Party operatives to correct 4,700 Republican absentee ballot applications so they would not be thrown out, court documents revealed yesterday.
A 132-page deposition of Elections Supervisor Sandra Goard, an elected Republican office-holder since 1983, acknowledged that two representatives of the state Republican Party used a room in her office for 10 days to correct voter registration numbers on ballot applications -- a technical
violation of state law.
Goard conceded that no one was allowed to correct applications in the past and that her staff assisted the GOP representatives, who were not supervised while they worked, by sorting Republican applications from Democratic applications.
The disclosures came through a lawsuit that, if successful, would throw out all of Seminole County's absentee ballots -- at least 15,000. About two-thirds of those ballots were cast for George W. Bush.
Breaking Florida Law
The Palm Beach Post, November 30, 2000
Republican election supervisors in Martin and Seminole counties condoned lawbreaking that helped their party in the weeks before Nov. 7 that calls into question the legitimacy of Florida's presidential vote.
In both offices, Republican campaign workers were allowed to correct GOP absentee ballot applications that would have been discarded. In Sanford, near Orlando, Supervisor Sandra Goard permitted two party representatives to set up shop inside her office, access computer databases and add voter ID numbers to about 4,800 ballot requests. In Stuart, Supervisor Peggy Robbins allowed Republicans to take about 500 defective applications to their headquarters and add information. Neither supervisor extended the same courtesy to Democrats.
The result in both counties was a windfall in a ratio of 2-1 for Texas Gov. George W. Bush in absentee votes. That represents more than 5,000 Bush votes that were cast illegally.
Two years ago, the Legislature tightened restrictions on absentee voting because of fraud in the 1997 Miami mayoral race. A judge threw out hundreds of forged ballots and ousted Xavier Suarez from office. Absentee voting has a long history of corruption and manipulation. Florida law places stringent requirements on voters who seek ballots in advance.
Ms. Goard, Ms. Robbins and the GOP operatives ignored the warning printed in capital letters at the top of each absentee application: Only the voter or a member of the immediate family or the legal guardian can request an absentee ballot. It is a third-degree felony for unauthorized persons to intervene. Republicans, who claim to stand for "the rule of law," say they are being assailed by "hypertechnicalities."
A lawsuit filed by Democratic lawyer Harry Jacobs, whose attorney is Gerald Richman of West Palm Beach, seeks one of two remedies: throw out the corrected absentee votes or reject all 15,000 Seminole absentee ballots, 10,006 of which went to Mr. Bush, if the county cannot separate the amended ones. Charges of double-voting and irregularities in the absentee totals also will come up in the Tallahassee trial next week. Martin County Democrats still are trying to figure out how to respond to what went on in Stuart. Vice President Al Gore's attorneys have been reluctant to involve themselves while arguing elsewhere that every vote must count.
Bush point man Jim Baker has made much about the possibility of "mischief" in hand-counting ballots. In fact, two Republican elections supervisors made much more than mischief in their offices. If Ms. Robbins and Ms. Goard had followed the law, Mr. Gore would have won Florida by several thousand votes because those Republican applications would have gone into the trash, along with incomplete applications from Democrats. Disputes over hanging chads and counting are at least legitimate. The disclosures in Sanford and Stuart are issues of fraud and favoritism and the possibility that it happened in other counties. No election could end in a worse way.
Exact numbers that show why the exit poll that called the state for Gore was right. From: Gwynlingwynlin@t.. 12- 1-00
Make sure you go to the undervote overvote chart and see how over five hundred thousand total votes were not counted for President in Florida, mostly from Counties Gore won, punch ballots.Broward County, and Miami Dade, as well as Palm Beach is astounding, but don't stop there, there are a few Bush counties that the overvotes and undervotes change places as if someone was given a ballot already punched so when they voted for Gore it wouldn't count.Also in Palm Beach, the overvotes clearly show the Butterfly ballot effect.I believe it was nineteen thousand overvotes which may explain why so few votes came up for Gore in recount.
Fact check: Examining Florida's 'undervote' From Brooks Jackson/CNN 11-30-00
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Florida election dispute is boiling down to the so-called undervote -- ballots where machines tallied no vote for president. Lawyers for Vice President Al Gore say humans should count them; lawyers for George W. Bush argue that they're not votes at all.
"These are real votes," argues Gore attorney David Boies. "They just haven't been counted because of the limitations of the punch card ballot system."
But Bush's legal team contends that the voters in question were consciously saying "none of the above."
"In fact, those are non-votes. And indeed, it is not unusual for people not to vote fully in every election on a ballot," Bush attorney Irv Terrell said during a recent press conference.
Both campaigns have cited statistics to back up their claims. The Bush team's own calculations turned up only four states with higher rates of non-votes for president -- which include both undervotes and spoiled ballots -- than Florida's on Election Day.
But even that calculation is wrong since Bush aides neglected to include write-in votes. In Wyoming, for example, Bush aides calculate that nearly 3.6 percent of voters failed to cast a valid presidential vote. However, after checking with state officials, CNN calculates that the correct figure is 1.5 percent -- much lower than Florida's percentage.
In making their case, Gore's lawyers point to a different statistic -- a big disparity in undervotes in counties using punch-card ballots, compared to those using ballots read by optical scanners.
Optical ballots -- because you color in or shade in with a No. 2 pencil a little hole -- you don't have the problems of whether you've indented a chad, or dislodged a chad, or partially dislodged a chad," argues Boies.
Gore lawyers figure Florida counties using optical scanners had an undervote of only .04 percent. While punch-card counties -- including the big Democratic counties of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach --- had an undervote about three and a half times as large. The difference, they suggest, is machine error.
CNN did its own calculations here as well. Thirty-six Florida counties that use optical scanners recorded an average undervote of just over .03 percent by our figures, while 18 counties using punch-card systems reported an undercount of more than 1.5 percent -- a substantial disparity.
But not all punch-card counties are Gore country. Bush lawyers point to Duval County, where Gore got less than 37 percent of the vote and did not ask for a recount.
Why don't they want to check Duval County ballots?" asked Ives, referring to the Democrats. "Is it because of the military issue that they seem to be afraid of? I don't know, but we say that you have to check them all if you check them."
Bush lawyers may have a point here. There were nearly 5,000 undervotes in Duval County, 1.7 percent of the total. According to CNN's figures, that's higher than the statewide average, as well as Miami-Dade or Broward Counties, though not quite as high as Palm Beach's 2.6 percent.
But there's another factor, too. Congresswoman Corrine Brown, a Florida Democrat, calculates that 1,400 of those Duval County undervotes came from four African-American precincts, which overwhelmingly supported Gore on Election Day. Her estimate accounts for 28 percent of the Duval County undervote.
Another pro-Bush argument that some are making is that exit polling on Election Day shows that between 1.5 and 2 percent of those surveyed in Miami-Dade said they didn't vote in the presidential race. If true, it would explain the entire official undervote of 1.6 percent.
But Voter News Service, which conducted exit polling on Election Day, says those claims aren't true.
"VNS is telling us that the number of people who purposely didn't vote for President is probably less than one percent," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
There's no question Florida has a large undervote -- more than 62,000 ballots statewide, according to county officials contacted by CNN and The Associated Press. It's just enough to fill a football stadium, and -- just perhaps -- change the outcome of the long count for president.
Excerpted from "Election 2000 Black politics takes center stage"
by Frances M. Beal firstname.lastname@example.org
...While the media concentrated on the butterfly ballot in West Palm Beach and the fight over whether to recount the ballots, stories began to emerge about the systematic attempt to diminish the Black turnout. However, these offenses came under national scrutiny when the NAACP held hearings and heard testimony that , taken as a whole, amounts to a policy of systematic Black vote denial.
These tactics included police roadblocks near voting precincts. Police stopped Black men demanding identification and issuing tickets for driving without a taxi license to get-out-the-vote workers driving car loads of people to vote. Election officials failed to pick up boxes of ballots severall Black precincts until Friday or Saturday following the election, they turned Blacks away from polls claiming they were not registered voters, they closed Black precincts early or ran out of ballots, they denied voting rights to students at Florida A&M University and Bethune-Cookman College. In addition, first time Haitian voters were not permitted translation assistance, a five minute voting limit was imposed and voters who made errors were illegally refused a second ballot.
From: gary Subject: Just when you think Bush can't stoop any lower....
In its first formal response to the Gore challenge, the Bush campaign argued Friday that Gore cannot mount a challenge in Florida because he and running mate Joe Lieberman were never on the ballot. Technically, only the party's electors are actually on the ballot. http://www.cnn.com/2000/ALLPOLITICS/stories/12/01/recount.wrap/
After this bullshit, I never ever want to hear a Republican say that Clinton argued about the definition of the word "is".
From: Amos White amoswhite@y... Dec 4, 2000 8:35am Subject: FWD: Miami Herald Shows Gore Wins! MIAMI HERALD ANALYSIS SHOWS THAT UNDER A FAIR, FULL & ACCURATE COUNT GORE WON FLORIDA BY 23,000
Today's Miami Herald reports that an analysis of "voting patterns in each of the state's 5,885 precincts suggests that Florida likely would have gone to Al Gore" - by a comfortable lead of 23,000 votes - "rather than George W. Bush, the officially certified victor by the wispy margin of 537."
While the Bush campaign, not surprisingly, immediately decried the analysis as "statistical voodoo," independent and impartial statisticians - including a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a professor of statistics at the University of Florida - validated the report's conclusion, with many agreeing that "the formula probably was conservative, awarding Bush too large a share of the pie."
INDEPENDENT ANALYSIS SHOWS THAT UNDER A FULL, FAIR AND ACCURATE COUNT, AL GORE WON FLORIDA BY 23,000 VOTES
Impartial Academic Analysis Commissioned by Miami Herald Shows Al Gore Won Florida with a "Comfortable Lead" of 23,000 Votes Over George W. Bush.
· An analysis commissioned by The Herald of voting patterns in each of the state's 5,885 precincts suggests that Florida likely would have gone to Al Gore* According to Stephen Doig, a professor at Arizona State University who crunched the numbers for The Herald, Bush would have gotten about 78,000 (42 percent) of the uncounted votes and Gore would have gotten more than 103,000 (56 percent). The remaining 4,000 or so would have gone to the minor candidates. The result: Gore ahead by 23,000 votes, a comfortable lead in comparison with the official statistical toss-up. [Miami Herald, 12/2/00]
NERVOUS BUSH CAMPAIGN IMMEDIATELY TRIES TO SMEAR REPORT, RAISES TWO FEEBLE POINTS OF OBJECTION
· Clearly Nervous and Concerned, Bush Campaign Tries Labeling Analysis as Nothing But "Statistical Voodoo" and "Hocus Pocus." [Tucker] Eskew, the spokesman for the Texas governor, flatly rejected [the analysis] as "hocus pocus" and "an utterly unfounded scientific process* That is a deeply flawed model that suggests statistical voodoo," he said. [Miami Herald, 12/2/00]
· Bush Campaign Feebly Protests Report's Findings on Two Grounds: Voters Didn't Want to Participate and Those Who Did Wanted to Cast Protest Votes One fundamental flaw, Republicans argued, was an assumption that every voter actually intended to cast a vote in the presidential race. A large majority of ballots in the disputed counties of Palm Beach and Duval didn't even have a dimple on them, said Bush spokesman Tucker Eskew. In addition to mistakenly assuming that voters handing in undervotes intended to vote, he said, the analysis also ignores the notion that many of the double-punched ballots may have been ``protest votes,'' intentionally spoiled. [Miami Herald, 12/2/00]
BUT EVEN WITH BUSH OBJECTIONS FACTORED IN - AND EVEN EXAGGERATED BEYOND NORMAL ASSUMPTIONS -- GORE WOULD STILL WIN
· Even With Far Above Normal Protest Votes and Non-Participation Factored In, Gore Would Still Win. There are ways of analyzing the data that attempt to account for the possibility of protest votes and deliberate non-participation in the presidential balloting. Even so, Gore hypothetically still would have collected enough votes to change the outcome of the election. [Miami Herald, 12/2/00]
o Typically, 2 Percent of Votes in President Races Are Not Counted - Either Because of Non-Participation or Protest Votes. But Even With a 90 Percent Discard Rate, Gore Wins Historically, about 2 percent of votes in presidential races don't count -- most often because voters either skipped the race or their marks weren't recorded by counting machines. Florida's rejection rate this year, however, was higher -- about 2.9 percent. The analysis tested even higher percentages of non-votes, ranging from 10 to 90 percent of the 185,000 discarded ballots. In each instance, Gore still earned more votes. [Miami Herald, 12/2/00]
· Even If ALL of the Undervotes - Ballots with Chads, Dimples, Pimples, etc. - Were Excluded, Analysis Still Shows Gore Would Win by a 13,000 Vote Margin The analysis also attempted to discard all undervotes as intentional non-votes, counting only overvotes. That analysis was hampered by the fact that 37 counties did not differentiate in their reports between ballots discarded as undervotes and those discarded as overvotes. But based on results from the 30 counties that did, 43 percent of the uncounted votes were undervotes. If that pattern held statewide and every undervote was tossed, ignoring the entire chad issue, Gore still would have a 13,000-vote margin. [Miami Herald, 12/2/00]
INDEPENDENT EXPERTS NOT ONLY VALIDATE REPORT'S FINDINGS BUT SAY CONSERVATIVE FORMULA GIVE BUSH "TOO LARGE A SHARE OF THE PIE."
· Experts Agree with Reports Findings, Say Formula Was Probably Too "Conservative, Awarding Bush Too Large a Share of the Pie." [Experts] agreed that the formula probably was conservative, awarding Bush too large a share of the pie. The biggest problems with rejected ballots were in low-income, mostly minority neighborhoods statewide -- areas that voted heavily Democratic. [Miami Herald, 12/2/00]
o Jim Kane, an independent pollster based in Fort Lauderdale, said "I'm not shocked that Gore would have won. All of the evidence points to that, if every single ballot would have been cast correctly, Gore would have won the state* I don't think anyone with any reasonableness would dispute that." [Miami Herald, 12/2/00]
o Alan Agresti, a professor of statistics at the University of Florida, reviewed the methodology and called it "overall reasonable." [Miami Herald, 12/2/00]
o Stephen Hess, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C., think tank, also found the numbers persuasive. [Miami Herald, 12/2/00]
OTHER KEY FINDINGS BY MIAMI HERALD REPORT
· Voters in Democratic Precincts Had A Far Greater Chance of Having Their Ballots Rejected
The analysis also confirmed that the voters in Democratic precincts had a far greater chance of having their ballots rejected. Only 1 in every 40 ballots were rejected in precincts Bush won, while 1 of every 27 ballots were rejected in precincts Gore won. [Miami Herald, 12/2/00]
· Voting machinery played a large role in rejections. Of the 51 precincts in which more than 20 percent of ballots were rejected, 45 of them used punch cards -- 88 percent. Of the 336 precincts in which more than 10 percent were tossed, 277 used punch cards -- 78 percent. The overall rejection rate for the 43 optical counties was 1.4 percent. The overall rejection rate for the 24 punch-card counties was 3.9 percent. That means that voters in punch-card counties, which included urban Democratic strongholds such as Broward and Palm Beach counties, were nearly three times as likely to have their ballots rejected as those in optical counties. [Miami Herald, 12/2/00]
· Palm Beach County Key Precinct in Florida Nearly half of Gore's margin, more than 11,000 extra votes, would come from Palm Beach alone. The other counties that would give him more than 1,000 new votes are Broward, Miami-Dade, Duval and Pinellas. Of those, Bush carried only Duval in the official tabulation. [Miami Herald, 12/2/00]
Palm Beach, home of the infamous butterfly ballot, and Duval, where candidate's names were spread across two pages, had 31 percent of the uncounted ballots, but only 12 percent of the total votes cast. [Miami Herald, 12/2/00]
·Analysis Shows One County Would Have Switched From Bush to Gore Attesting to how close things were, the analysis shows only one county that would actually switch preferences for president -- tiny Madison, which officially went to Bush, but would go to Gore under The Herald's projections. More than 10 percent of Madison's 4,000-plus ballots were rejected. [Miami Herald, 12/2/00
Florida Paid for Inaccurate Felon Lists and Denied Voting Rights
Florida's flawed "voter-cleansing" program Secretary of State Katherine Harris hired a firm to vet the rolls for felons, but that may have wrongly kept thousands, particularly blacks, from casting ballots. http://archive.salon.com/politics/feature/2000/12/04/voter_file/print.html - - - - - - - - - - - - By Gregory Palast
Dec. 4, 2000 | If Vice President Al Gore is wondering where his Florida votes went, rather than sift through a pile of chad, he might want to look at a "scrub list" of 173,000 names knocked off the Florida voter registry by a division of the office of Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris. A close examination suggests thousands of voters may have lost their right to vote based on a flaw-ridden list of purported "felons" provided by a private firm with tight Republican ties.
Early in the year, the company, ChoicePoint, gave Florida officials a list with the names of 8,000 ex-felons to "scrub" from their list of voters. But it turns out none on the list were guilty of felonies, only misdemeanors. The company acknowledged the error, and blamed it on the original source of the list -- the state of Texas.
Florida officials moved to put those falsely accused by Texas back on voter rolls before the election. Nevertheless, the large number of errors uncovered in individual counties suggests that thousands of eligible voters may have been turned away at the polls.
Florida is the only state that pays a private company that promises to "cleanse" voter rolls. Secretary of State Harris approved in 1998 the $4 million contract with DBT Online, since merged into ChoicePoint, of Atlanta. The creation of the scrub list, called the central voter file, was mandated by a 1998 state voter fraud law, which followed a tumultuous year that saw Miami's mayor removed after voter fraud in the election, with dead people discovered to have cast ballots. The voter fraud law required all 67 counties to purge voter registries of duplicate registrations, deceased voters and felons, many of whom, but not all, are barred from voting in Florida.
In the process, however, the list invariably targets a minority population in Florida, where 31 percent of all black men cannot vote because of a ban on felons. In compiling a list by looking at felons from other states, Florida could, in the process, single out citizens who committed felons in other states but, after serving their time or successfully petitioning the courts, had their voting rights returned to them. According to Florida law, felons can vote once their voting rights have been reinstated.
And if this unfairly singled out minorities, it unfairly handicapped Gore: In Florida, 93 percent of African Americans voted for the vice president.
In the 10 counties contacted by Salon, use of the central voter file seemed to vary wildly. Some found the list too unreliable and didn't use it at all. But most counties appear to have used the file as a resource to purge names from their voter rolls, with some counties making little -- or no -- effort at all to alert the "purged" voters. Counties that did their best to vet the file discovered a high level of errors, with as many as 15 percent of names incorrectly identified as felons.
News coverage has focused on some maverick Florida counties that decided not to use the central voter file, essentially breaking the law and possibly letting some ineligible felons vote. On Friday, the Miami Herald reported that after researching voter records in 12 Florida counties -- but primarily in Palm Beach and Duval counties, which didn't use the file -- it found that more than 445 felons had apparently cast ballots in the presidential election.
But Palm Beach and Duval weren't the only counties to dump the list after questioning its accuracy. Madison County's elections supervisor, Linda Howell, had a peculiarly personal reason for distrusting the central voter file: She had received a letter saying that since she had committed a felony, she would not be allowed to vote.
Howell, who said she has never committed a felony, said the letter she received in March shook her faith in the process. "It really is a mess," she said.
"I was very upset," Howell said. "I know I'm not a felon." Though the mistake did get corrected and law enforcement officials were quite apologetic, Howell decided not to use the state list anymore because its "information is so flawed." She's unsure of the number of warning letters that were sent out to county residents when she first received the list in 1999, but she recalls that there were many problems. "One day we would send a letter to have someone taken off the rolls, and the next day, we would send one to put them back on again," Howell said. "It makes you look like you must be a dummy."
Dixie and Washington counties also refused to use the scrub lists. Starlet Cannon, Dixie's deputy assistant supervisor of elections, said, "I'm scared to work with it because of lot of the information they have on there is not accurate." Carol Griffin, supervisor of elections for Washington, said, "It hasn't been accurate in the past, so we had no reason to suspect it was accurate this year."
But if some counties refused to use the list altogether, others seemed to embrace it all too enthusiastically. Etta Rosado, spokeswoman for the Volusia County Department of Elections, said the county essentially accepted the file at face value, did nothing to confirm the accuracy of it and doesn't inform citizens ahead of time that they have been dropped from the voter rolls.
"When we get the con felon list, we automatically start going through our rolls on the computer. If there's a name that says John Smith was convicted of a felony, then we enter a notation on our computer that says convicted felon -- we mark an "f" for felon -- and the date that we received it," Rosado said. "They're still on our computer, but they're on purge status," meaning they have been marked ineligible to vote.
"I don't think that it's up to us to tell them they're a convicted felon," Rosado said. "If he's on our rolls, we make a notation on there. If they show up at a polling place, we'll say, 'Wait a minute, you're a convicted felon, you can't vote. Nine out of 10 times when we repeat that to the person, they say 'Thank you' and walk away. They don't put up arguments." Rosado doesn't know how many people in Volusia were dropped from the list as a result of being identified as felons.
Hillsborough County's elections supervisor, Pam Iorio, tried to make sure that that the bugs in the system didn't keep anyone from voting. All 3,258 county residents who were identified as possible felons on the central voter file sent by the state in June were sent a certified letter informing them that their voting rights were in jeopardy. Of that number, 551 appealed their status, and 245 of those appeals were successful. Some had been convicted of a misdemeanor and not a felony, others were felons who had had their rights restored and others were simply cases of mistaken identity.
An additional 279 were not close matches with names on the county's own voter rolls and were not notified. Of the 3,258 names on the original list, therefore, the county concluded that more than 15 percent were in error. If that ratio held statewide, no fewer than 7,000 voters were incorrectly targeted for removal from voting rosters.
Iorio says local officials did not get adequate preparation for purging felons from their rolls. "We're not used to dealing with issues of criminal justice or ascertaining who has a felony conviction," she said. Though the central voter file was supposed to facilitate the process, it was often more troublesome than the monthly circuit court lists that she had previously used to clear her rolls of duplicate registrations, the deceased and convicted felons. "The database from the state level is not always accurate," Iorio said. As a consequence, her county did its best to notify citizens who were on the list about their felony status. "We sent those individuals a certified letter, we put an ad in a local newspaper and we held a public hearing. For those who didn't respond to that, we sent out another letter by regular mail," Iorio said. "That process lasted several months."
"We did run some number stats and the number of blacks [on the list] was higher than expected for our population," says Chuck Smith, a statistician for the county. Iorio acknowledged that African-Americans made up 54 percent of the people on the original felons list, though they constitute only 11.6 percent of Hillsborough's voting population.
Smith added that the DBT computer program automatically transformed various forms of a single name. In one case, a voter named "Christine" was identified as a felon based on the conviction of a "Christopher" with the same last name. Smith says ChoicePoint would not respond to queries about its proprietary methods. Nor would the company provide additional verification data to back its fingering certain individuals in the registry purge. One supposed felon on the ChoicePoint list is a local judge.
While there was much about the lists that bothered Iorio, she felt she didn't have a choice but to use them. And she's right. Section 98.0975 of the Florida Constitution states:
"Upon receiving the list from the division, the supervisor must attempt to verify the information provided. If the supervisor does not determine that the information provided by the division is incorrect, the supervisor must remove from the registration books by the next subsequent election the name of any person who is deceased, convicted of a felony or adjudicated mentally incapacitated with respect to voting."
But the counties have interpreted that law in different ways. Leon County used the central voter file sent in January 2000 to clean up its voter rolls, but set aside the one it received in July. According to Thomas James, the information systems officer in the county election office, the list came too late for the information to be processed.
According to Leon election supervisor Ion Sancho, "there have been some problems" with the file. Using the information received in January, Sancho sent 200 letters to county voters, by regular mail, telling them they had been identified by the state as having committed a felony and would not be allowed to vote. They were given 30 days to respond if there was an error. "They had the burden of proof," he says. He says 20 people proved that they did not belong on the list, and a handful of angry phone calls followed on Election Day. "Some people threatened to sue us," he said, "but we haven't had any lawyers calling yet."
In Orange County, officials also sent letters to those identified as felons by the state, but they appear to have taken little care in their handling of the list. "I have no idea," said June Condrun, Orange's deputy supervisor of elections, when asked how many letters were sent out to voters. After a bit more thought, Condrun responded that "several hundred" of the letters were sent, but said she doesn't know how many people complained. Those who did call, she said, were given the phone number of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement so that they could appeal directly to it.
Many Orange County voters never got the chance to appeal in any form. Condrun noted that about one-third of the letters, which the county sent out by regular mail, were returned to the office marked undeliverable. She attributed the high rate of incorrect addresses to the age of the information sent by DBT, some of which was close to 20 years old, she said.
Miami-Dade County officials may have had similar trouble. Milton Collins, assistant supervisor of elections, said he isn't comfortable estimating how many accused felons were identified by the central voter file in his county. He said he knows that about 6,000 were notified, by regular mail, about an early list in 1999. Exactly how many were purged from the list? "I honestly couldn't tell you," he said. According to Collins, the most recent list he received from the state was one sent in January 2000, and the county applied a "two-pass system": If the information on the state list seemed accurate enough when comparing names with those on county voter lists, people were classified as felons and were then sent warning letters. Those who seemed to have only a partial match with the state data were granted "temporary inactive status." Both groups of people were given 90 days to respond or have their names struck from the rolls.
But Collins said the county has no figures for how many voters were able to successfully appeal their designation as felons.
ChoicePoint spokesman Martin Fagan concedes his company's error in passing on the bogus list from Texas. ("I guess that's a little bit embarrassing in light of the election," he says.) He defends the company's overall performance, however, dismissing the errors in 8,000 names as "a minor glitch -- less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the electorate" (though the total equals 15 times Gov. George W. Bush's claimed lead over Gore). But he added that ChoicePoint is responsible only for turning over its raw list, which is then up to Florida officials to test and correct.
Last year, DBT Online, with which ChoicePoint would soon merge, obtained an unprecedented agreement from the state of Florida to "cleanse" registration lists of ineligible voters -- using information gathering and matching criteria it has refused to disclose, even to local election officials in Florida.
Atlanta's ChoicePoint, a highflying dot-com specializing in sales of personal information gleaned from its database of 4 billion public and not-so-public records, has come under fire for misuse of private data from government computers. In January, the state of Pennsylvania terminated a contract with ChoicePoint after discovering the firm had sold citizens' personal profiles to unauthorized individuals.
Fagan says many errors could have been eliminated by matching the Social Security numbers of ex-felons on DBT lists to the Social Security numbers on voter registries. However, Florida's counties have Social Security numbers on only a fraction of their voter records. So with those two problems -- Social Security numbers missing in both the DBT's records and the counties' records -- that fail-safe check simply did not exist.
In its defense, the company proudly points to an award it received from Voter Integrity Inc. on April 1 for "innovative excellence [in] cleansing" Florida voter rolls. The conservative, nonprofit advocacy organization has campaigned in parallel with the Republican Party against the 1993 motor voter law that resulted in a nationwide increase in voter registration of 7 million, much of it among minority voters. DBT Online partnered with Voter Integrity Inc. three days later, setting up a program to let small counties "scrub" their voting lists, too.
Florida is the only state in the nation to contract the first stage of removal of voting rights to a private company. And ChoicePoint has big plans. "Given the outcome of our work in Florida," says Fagan, "and with a new president in place, we think our services will expand across the country."
Especially if that president is named "Bush." ChoicePoint's board and executive roster are packed with Republican stars, including billionaire Ken Langone, a company director who was chairman of the fund-raising committee for New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's aborted run against Hillary Rodham Clinton. Langone is joined at ChoicePoint by another Giuliani associate, former New York Police Commissioner Howard Safir. And Republican power lobbyist and former congressman Vin Weber lobbies for ChoicePoint in Washington. Just before his death in 1998, ChoicePoint founder Rick Rozar donated $100,000 to the Republican Party.
(Alicia Montgomery, Daryl Lindsey and Anthony York contributed to this
Imagine that .....Parallels to one of our Bannana Republics
1. Imagine that we read of an election occurring anywhere in the third world in which the self-declared winner was the son of the former prime minister and that former prime minister was himself the former head of that nation's secret police (CIA).
2. Imagine that the self-declared winner lost the popular vote but won based on some old colonial holdover (Electoral College) from thenation's pre-democracy past.
3. Imagine that the self-declared winner's 'victory' turned on disputed votes cast in a province governed by his brother!
4. Imagine that the poorly drafted ballots of one district, a district heavily favoring the self-declared winner's opponent, led thousands of voters to vote for the wrong candidate.
5. Imagine that that members of that nation's most despised caste, fearing for their lives/livelihoods, turned out in record numbers to vote in near-universal opposition to the self-declared winner's candidacy.
6. Imagine that hundreds of members of that most-despised caste were intercepted on their way to the polls by state police operating under the authority of the self-declared winner's brother. [USN&WR recently highlighted the complaints of black Floridians who met dogs and guns on the way to the polls, and were then forced to show three forms of ID. This happened not only 35 years ago, but THREE WEEKS AGO.]
7. Imagine that six million people voted in the disputed province and that the self-declared winner's 'lead' was only 327 votes. Fewer, certainly, than the vote counting machines' margin of error.
8. Imagine that the self-declared winner and his political party opposed a more careful by-hand inspection and re-counting of the ballots in the disputed province or in its most hotly disputed district.
9. Imagine that the self-declared winner, himself a governor of a major province, had the worst human rights record of any province in his nation and actually led the nation in executions.
10. Imagine that a major campaign promise of the self-declared winner was to appoint like-minded human rights violators to lifetime positions on the high court of that nation.
None of us would deem such an election to be representative of anything other than the self-declared winner's will-to-power. All of us, I imagine, would wearily turn the page thinking that it was another sad tale of pitiful pre- or anti-democracy peoples in some strange elsewhere.
Peter Brecke The Sam Nunn School of International Affairs
FLORIDA VOTING RIGHTS ACT VIOLATIONS: FACT SHEET
"The right to vote is preservative of all other rights."
Thurgood Marshall -late Supreme Court Justice and veteran of the Civil Rights movement.
The most fundamental right of a democratic society is the right to vote, and to have one’s vote correctly counted. The legal system clearly exists to ensure that people’s rights are not violated. An extreme number of documented violations of civil rights, denying Florida Citizens their right to vote in the recent presidential election, were objectively documented by the NAACP, ACLU, and media. These documented abuses warrant closer scrutiny as they demonstrate a disproportionate number of electoral violations and a miscarriage of justice over the equitable application of the law for all Citizens of these United States.
Carpools of African-American voters were stopped by police asking for a "taxi license", some delayed as long as 3 hours. The LA Times. Two poll workers testified that they had been instructed by "headquarters" that they should apply "qualification" procedures very strictly and if there was the slightest doubt, to deny the request to vote. They were also told to refrain from giving out any written verification of the refused voters' requests, including affidavits. (NAACP). Reported failure to pick up at least one ballot box from a heavily black precinct. "These and other acts may violate the 15th Amendment to the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act of 1965." - Kweisi Mfume, President & CEO, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP Florida Hearings televised on C-SPAN, 11/12/00) Some African-American voters complained that officials turned them away because of a ballot shortage; others received inoperable ballots; still others were disqualified because their race did not match official voting records. (The Los Angeles Times, 11/10/00). Many African-American and Haitian-American first-time voters, were turned away from precincts, did not appear on the voting rolls, and were denied their vote. (NAACP, The Miami Herald, 11/10/00). Hispanic and African-American voters were asked to provide both photo identification AND a current voter registration card, and many who could not do so were denied the right to vote even though the law does not require that the voters present both. (The Associated Press, NAACP). Election officials refused to allow certified translators in voting booths for Haitian-Americans in Miami. (NAACP) In a county with a substantial number of elderly and disabled people, precinct clerks had been directed not to help people with the ballot cards. This is a violation of the Voting Accessibility for the Elderly, Handicapped Act, and the Americans With Disabilities Act. (NAACP) On the Palm Beach County contested "butterfly" ballot, discrepancies between the sample and actual ballots led thousands of voters to either choose the wrong candidate, or to make two choices for president. Voters making mistakes and asking for new ballots were denied them. There were actually 29,702 invalidated ballots this year in Palm Beach County. 19,120 ballots of which were discounted for double punching for president according to the Palm Beach County Elections Office (www.pbcelections.org).
Please demand that Untited States Attorney General Janet Reno immediately open an investigation into these civil rights abuses and take appropriate action.
Janet Reno Attorney General of the United States Department of Justice 950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, D.C. 20530 202 514-2000 - main line 800 253-3931 - complaint line © Democracy Now! Amos White & Victoria Knight
Scalia should consider bowing out of Florida case
Sunday, December 10, 2000 Breaking News Sections
(12-10) 15:04 PST WASHINGTON (AP) -- A former Clinton White House counsel suggested Sunday that conservative Justice Antonin Scalia may want to recuse himself from the Florida recount case because his son works for a firm that represents George W. Bush.
Eugene Scalia is a partner in the Washington office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. Ted Olson, also a partner there, will represent Bush for a second time in oral arguments on Monday, when the Supreme Court considers whether to allow hand counting of ballots in Florida to resume.
``Under that circumstance, Justice Scalia at the very least should disclose the relationship, the presence of his son in Ted Olson's law firm, and explain why recusal, at least for appearances' sake, isn't desirable,'' said Lanny Davis, former special counsel to President Clinton.
Eugene Scalia said Sunday he is not working on the Bush case.
Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said the court would have no comment on the matter. Scalia did not recuse himself the first time Olson argued this case, so it seemed unlikely he would do so this time.
On Saturday, Scalia joined in the 5-4 majority in temporarily halting hand counting of ballots in Florida, as ordered by the Florida Supreme Court. And he issued his own opinion explaining in stronger terms why he believes Bush is likely to win his case after it is heard Monday.
In September, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, whose lawyer son is helping defend Microsoft against private antitrust lawsuits, participated in a key Supreme Court vote in a Microsoft antitrust case. He explained in writing that he had reviewed the law and concluded there was no conflict of interest.
Federal law says judges should disqualify themselves from cases in which their child is known to have ``an interest that could be substantially affected by the outcome of the proceeding.''
Subject: [RWWATCH] Judicial Takeover and Scalia's Catch-22 10 Dec 2000
I suspect that most of you were not surprised by the decision of the US Supreme Court to stop the recount, given the appointment of several conservative activists to the Court, as noted in my email of 12/8/00 on judicial bias.
I did some fact-checking today and came up with some more info on the Federalist Society, a nonprofit organization with a multi-million dollar budget, initially founded in 1982 on three college campuses (Harvard, Yale, and U of Chicago).
Some of the new facts:
1) The faculty advisor to one of the original Federalist Society chapters was none other than Antonin Scalia, who is now one of the most right-wing members of the Supreme Court. (See the Washington Post, Dec. 12, 1986, p. A23).
2) Though the Society consisted only of a few student chapters initially, it quickly attracted right-wing grants and grew its budget to $400,000 after only 3 years.
3) The Society was intimately involved in choosing judges and Justice Department staffers in both the 2nd term of the Reagan-Bush Administration (1985-9) and the Bush Administration (1989-93). see http://www.communityrights.org/chapter3.html. Pretty good for a "student" organization!
4) One of the most active Federalist Society board members appeared on several networks today (12/10/00) on behalf of the Bush campaign. This was White House Counsel (Under Bush) C. Boyden Gray. According to the web site listed above, Gray called upon one of the Federalist Society cofounders formerly advised by Scalia, Lee Liberman, to test the "ideological purity" of proposed Bush judicial appointees.
Gray is one of the many heirs to the R.J. Reynolds tobacco fortune. He was the chair of the Washington Chapter of the Federalist Society and he is now the chair of the board of Citizens for a Sound Economy, a pro-business lobbying group that is funded by tobacco and coal companies, and by Microsoft.
You can read more on C. Boyden Gray's corporate ties at: http://www.nlg.org/news/0003_landay.html http://www.cleanairtrust.org/release.091800.html http://www.onlinejournal.com/Justice_in_America/PublicI090600/publici0906 http://www.onlinejournal.com/Justice_in_America/PublicI090600/publici090600. html
5) Several news commentators have implied today that the decision was split along party lines; in fact it was not. The minority included Republican appointee John Paul Stevens. The way the court actually split was quite simple. The justices appointed by administrations that included George Bush Sr. as President or Vice President sided with Bush's son. Every other justice voted to continue the recount.
THE CATCH-22 SITUATION
One final comment about the initial US Supreme Court (USSC) ruling on Dec. 4, throwing the decision back to the Florida Supreme Court (FSC).
The USSC ruling said to the FSC that any recount had to be based on the existing Florida recount law. Of course, the law is a bit shaky in that it leaves the determination of the standards used to determine a "voter's intent" up to the local county canvassing boards.
If the FSC asked for a statewide recount under a single standard, the USSC would likely have overruled the FSC. They would have simply recited the standard Federalist Society line: that any court action to improve upon an incomplete law is "judicial activism", "overreaching," or "making new rules after the fact."
Instead, the FSC asked for a statewide recount under the existing law that gave counties local autonomy. For this, the FSC has now been chastised by Justice Scalia and others for ordering recounts without a common standard. (Incredibly, the Bush legal team is even basing its argument on civil rights provisions of "equal protection" in the U.S. Constitution.)
Damned if you do; damned if you don't. A classic "catch-22" situation.
The Supreme Court could regain credibility as an arbiter seeking a fair outcome by allowing a statewide manual recount of all the "undervotes" under a single uniform standard. But given all of the prior history cited below, it seems likely that their main objective is simply to put George W. Bush into office.
P.S. RWWATCH intends to continue after the inauguration, publishing alerts to shine a light on some of the facts the new administration is trying to hide. Please help out by circulating this alert, or by making a tax-deductible gift to the Organizers' Collaborative (www.organizenow.net), the fiscal sponsor of this project.
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[Note: The phrase "Catch-22" came into common use as a result of a 1961 antiwar book by Joseph Heller. Here is an excerpt, from http://www.webster.edu/~barrettb/heller.htm :
"There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle. 'That's some catch, that Catch-22,' he observed. 'It's the best there is,' Doc Daneeka agreed." ]
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Back to the Supreme Court Forum Join a Discussion on Editorials
The United States Supreme Court did a disservice to the nation's tradition of fair elections by calling a halt to the recount of disputed ballots in Florida. The manual recount was progressing smoothly and swiftly Saturday in most parts of the state, with new votes being recorded for both Vice President Al Gore and Gov. George W. Bush. Indeed, the entire exercise was serving the core democratic principle that every legal vote should be counted and was also on the verge of solving the monthlong issue of which man actually got the greater number of valid votes. The stay abruptly imposed by five justices at midafternoon was an unwarranted intervention that could well deny the country its last chance to determine which candidate has the stronger title to the state's decisive 25 electors. The ruling, which looked highly political on its surface, could also damage the reputation of the Supreme Court for years to come. That said, the candidates, Congress and citizens must respect, in deference to the sacred concept of the rule of law, what the court decides. For that reason, it is important to maintain a clear view of the legal principles that will be argued this morning. By stopping the count without fully considering the merits of the case, the court tilted the legal and political playing field in Mr. Bush's favor. But the switch of only a single justice could give Mr. Gore a renewed chance, and place the vote counters under extreme time pressure to meet the Tuesday deadline that would ensure Florida's electors are not subject to Congressional challenge. For that reason, the court, whatever its decision, must act quickly so that the election outcome is not determined by an expiring clock. We believe that as a matter of federal constitutional law, the five justices who issued the stay were mistaken and will only compound their misjudgment now if they overturn Friday's decision by the Florida Supreme Court. That is because, as Justice John Paul Stevens noted in a pointed dissent on Saturday, the matters in dispute in Florida fall properly within the jurisdiction of the Florida courts. It is ironic indeed to see the very justices who have repeatedly ruled in favor of states' rights â€" Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Anthony Kennedy and Sandra Day O'Connor â€" do an about-face in this case. As he nears retirement, Mr. Rehnquist should have his eye on history as he weighs a case that will have an imperishable place in the national memory. So should the two most likely swing votes, Justices Kennedy and O'Connor. Surely they want to go into legal annals as independent thinkers rather than as followers of Justice Scalia's ideological reading of the law. The primary constitutional issue before the court is whether the Florida Supreme Court has infringed on the powers vested by the federal Constitution exclusively in state legislatures to determine the manner by which electors are chosen. The decisions of the Florida court, including the order last Friday to recount disputed ballots, properly apply the state's electoral laws and are not an improper usurpation of legislative power. Those laws explicitly give state courts broad authority to "provide any relief appropriate under the circumstances" when they find a challenge to the certified result of an election is justified. We are also not sympathetic to the Bush argument that a manual recount of undervotes violates the due process or equal protection provisions of the Constitution. The decisions of the Florida Supreme Court are in compliance with an 1887 federal law that protects presidential electors from Congressional challenges. That protection, or "safe harbor," is provided as long as the selection of electors is conducted under laws established by Election Day and the electors are certified six days before the Electoral College votes. That six-day cushion ends at midnight tomorrow. Contrary to the assertions of Mr. Bush's legal team, the Florida high court has not changed the state's election laws since Election Day. If the court does rule in Mr. Gore's favor, it should in fairness restore to the political calendar the day and a half lost to its stay. We see no merit in the questions that Justice Scalia, the court's conservative intellectual leader, has raised about the legality of the disputed ballots in the concurring statement he issued with Saturday's stay. It is hard to see how those ballots could be made invalid by being subjected to the hand recounts specified in Florida election law. The only problem with these ballots is that they could not be read by machine. Under Florida law, a vote is considered to be legal as long as the voter's intent can be discerned. As the truncated hand count on Saturday demonstrated, some of the ballots in question clearly show a vote for Mr. Bush or Mr. Gore even though machines did not detect it.
These next days promise to be filled with high drama and angry division. The Supreme Court's order to stop the recount revealed bitter differences among the justices that were papered over in the court's earlier decision on the Florida vote. Its final ruling on the matter, whichever way it turns, promises to be equally divided, inevitably angering about half the nation's voters. Such division seems to come with the territory in this disputed election. That is why it is so important now for this conservative Supreme Court to be seen as searching for an exhaustive vote count, not an artificial end point that would advance one candidate or political philosophy. It is also important for the candidates to act as statesmen and for their supporters to be restrained. The most democratic outcome is for the Supreme Court to permit the recount to resume and for the outstanding votes in Florida to be reviewed in the short time that remains. In our view, state and federal law and the federal Constitution all dictate that course. But if the court rules definitively in Mr. Bush's favor, this election will effectively be over and Mr. Gore will have no choice but to concede. Mr. Bush and the Republicans should be prepared to accept the court's authority with equal dignity if the court allows a completed count that puts Mr. Gore ahead in Florida.
News Media Miss the Story I'm sending this to various people who've expressed an interest in my views on the ongoing election debacle plus a couple of folks who haven't but who I want to express myself to anyway.
So far (1:30pm EST on Tuesday the 12th) the news media have (and I just checked the web sites of both the NY Times and CNN) totally failed to twig to the blockbuster coup that the Florida Supreme Court pulled late yesterday, which may very well work (I give it a 65-35 chance) and which in any event will go down in the annals of legal history as one of the cleverest pieces of gamesmanship and craftsmanship ever done by one court to another, and which has going for it that best of all possible things: It is not only a brilliant stroke, It is RIGHT and it is FAIR, and it strengthens democracy and the rule of law.
Here's what happened: You'll recall that the original Fla. S.Ct. opinion held that the votes which the machines failed to read as casting a vote for *either* candidate (which would be an awfully rare event, statistically) SHOULD be read by eyeball, to see if there was clear evidence that the voter attempted to punch out the chad completely but didn't succeed in doing so cleanly enough for the card-reading machines to read. In the trial record there was testimony ---some of it by the inventor/seller of those very machines-- that the punch machines ("Votamatics") were old and worn out and hadn't been maintained properly and could get clogged up. There was also testimony that the card-*reading* machines were very old technology which might fail to read a hole even if it was three-fourths punched out, or was completely punched out but was as little as twenty-five thousands of an inch out of alignment (a human hair is about four thou).
The right-wing (5 out of 9) members of the U.S. Supreme Court didn't LIKE that opinion of the Florida Supreme Court. Of course Rehnquist and O'Connor, particularly, urgently want Bush to win, since they are past normal retirement age and want to retire next year on full pay and be confident that he will appoint people of the same rectapennal [I think I just made up that word, from the Latin "rectus" for "right" and "penna" for "wing", and I rather like it!] views as themselves to replace them. Scalia and Kennedy are also exactly my age (both were at school with me) which means that they, too, will be turning 65 in the next year or so if they haven't already. So they kicked out the Florida Supreme Court's opinion(s).
To make a long story short, and skipping some major steps along the way, here's what obviously happened yesterday: The seven judges of the Florida Supreme Court, in Tallahassee LISTENED to the oral arguments before the USSC yesterday morning, got annoyed at the "holier-than-thou" disdain with which the rectapennal members of the USSC spoke of their own reasoning skills and writing skills and ability to interpret the law of Florida (which is, after all, what they have been doing for a lifetime). They didn't just get annoyed as they listened. They also paid close attention to the precise hypertechnical criticisms made from the USSCt. bench and as a result of what they heard they picked up an additional member of their own (seven-person) court, and quickly popped out a NEW thirty-five page opinion, now signed 6 to 1, with the sole dissenter being their own Chief Judge, Wells. Having felt a bit "dissed" by the Washington Supremes, they now say in footnote 2 of their new opinion "While recognizing the dissent in this case does not agree with the release of this opinion at this time, we have issued this decision as expeditiously as possible under the foregoing time constraints in order to timely respond to the questions presented by the Supreme Court of the United States....."
Needless to say, they "respond" not only to the Dec. 4 written opinion of the USSCt. but also --without expressly saying so---- quite obviously also respond to the "Catch-22" and "Gotcha" questions fired at Gore's lawyer from the bench in Washington yesterday morning. And needless tosay, they saw to it that their new opinion got to Washington while the USSt. is still "considering" the case. What's literally unique about this is that never prior to this case had the USSCt. allowed audio to be released immediately after argument. Under public (and press) pressure to allow tv in the courtroom, they tossed the public a bone, in the form of an almost-immediate audio tape. And THAT is what made it possible for the Tallahassee judges to knock the props out from under the strained MIS-construction which the rectapennal five were trying to base their coup on.
In their new opinion, issued since yesterday morning's oral argument in Washington, they point out (p.14) that the Florida statute, written almost fifty years ago, provides that "no vote shall be declared invalid or void if there is a clear indication of the intent of the voter as determined by the canvassing board". Sec.101.4514(5). And they craft every sentence of the new revised opinion so as to make it indisputably clear that they are NOT basing any part of their reasoning on anything other than the plain every-day core portion of their job description, which is to construe Florida law and to resolve ambiguities and conflicts which show up (as they do all the time) in state statutes. That IS what judges do for a living
.They add: "Although error cannot be completely eliminated in any tabulation of the ballots, our society has not yet gone so far as to place blind faith in machines".And the Fla.S.Ct. ends at p.34 (now SIX out of its seven judges signing onto the opinion) with the following marvelous paragraph:"...Based on this Court's status as the ultimate arbiter of conflicting Florida law, we conclude that our construction of the above statutes results in the formation of no new rules of state law but rather results simply in a narrow reading and clarification of those statutes, which were enacted long before the present election took place. We decline to rule more expansively in the present case, for to do so would result in this Court substantiallly rewriting the Code...."The one dissenter, Wells, points to absolutely no error in the majority's opinion, and says only "I dissent from issuing a new decision while the United States Supreme Court has under consideration Bush v. Gore" And what will the next step be? Will Bush's lawyers file a motion with the USSCt asking it to "strike" or "disregard" this judgment of the Florida Supreme Court? Does Scalia have gall enough not only to have sent an order to Florida telling Florida citizens to cease the manual countings which were well underway a few days ago, but also now to say that the Florida Supreme Court has no right to to amend and clarify the explanatory narrative language which supported its order which stated that recounts could go forward?If the RECTAPENNAL FIVE of the USSC don't back off at this point, and let the recount go forward, they will have destroyed much of the legitimacy which that court has earned through more than two centuries.
They will have shown that having preached for decades against "judicial activism" when it suited their social preferences, they are willing to be activist to an appalling degree to tilt the scales in favor of the man they want to win the presidency. I've never bothered to take my suitable-for-framing certificate of membership in the USSC bar out of the cardboard tube it arrived in, decades ago. But if Scalia and Company manage to keep the manual count (not "recount"----these are votes which the machines spat out UNcounted) from going forward in view of this, I may feel impelled to take that piece of paper out and burn it.This has absolutely nothing to do with political preferences. I don't see much difference between Bush and Gore and really didn't care strongly who won. But I do care one hell of a lot about votes getting counted, and about courts being fair and non-political, and this has been the most shameful episode in the judicial history of this country since I got out of law school forty years ago.
This note is "copyright Alan W. Heldman, Dec. 12, 2000", but IF it is sent in its ENTIRETY ---no extracts and no edited partial versions---- but the WHOLE text, including this final paragraph, it may be forwarded to whomever any recipient may wish to forward it to.Alan W. Heldman 3857 Cromwell Drive Birmingham AL 35243 USA
Republican Mob Threatens Election Officials and Assaults Political Opponents email@example.com Ray Goforth 11-27-00
As our American and many overseas readers will know, the fate of our presidential election turns upon the results of the vote recount in Florida. The focus has been on tens of thousands of ballots where the vote counting machines failed to register a choice for presidential candidate. There are a variety of reasons why this might occur ranging from improperly maintained equipment, debris in the ballots, to ballots that had not been punched through completely. The remedy provided by Florida law is to count each ballot by hand.
The three person Miami-Dade Canvassing Board initially voted at 9:00 am on November 23rd to hand count the 11,000 ballots that had failed to register any vote for the presidential candidate. This "undercount" was significantly higher than registered in previous presidential elections and triple that of surrounding counties which used more modern vote tabulation machines. Shortly after voting to initiate the hand count, a mob of approximately 200 people descended upon the Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections office. The crowd pushed their way past guards into the building threatening public officials and demanding that the recount be halted. After some period of time, police were able to move the mob outside the building.
Once outside the building, the crowd chased down Joe Geller, chairman of the local Democratic Party, because they falsely believed he had tried to steal a ballot (he had a sample ballot). After being struck several times in the head by members of the crowd, police arrived and escorted him away from the scene. Louis Rosero, a Democratic aide, was also punched and kicked by the crowd as he made his way into the building. Not far away, a brick was thrown through the window of the local Democratic Party headquarters.
Democratic party officials protested these actions and charged that they had been orchestrated by State Republican party officials. It turned out that these charges were in fact correct as members of the mob freely admitted that different Republican Party entities had paid for their airfare, their hotel, their rental cars and provided them with logistical directions for the "protest."
Three hours after initially voting to authorize the recount, the canvassing board suddenly reversed itself and announced that no recount would take place. Two members of the canvassing board declined all comment but the New York Times reported that one of the members Dan Leahy acknowledged that the intimidation tactics had contributed to their decision.
While I did not vote for either Al Gore (Democratic Party Candidate) or George Bush (Republican Party Candidate), I must admit that I would certainly rather have Al Gore as our next president. However, I am more concerned with the stability and integrity of the electoral process than I am with the eventual outcome.
I believe that all Americans should be profoundly disturbed by the specter of a "rent-a-mob" paid for by a political party with the explicit goal of stopping votes from being counted.
More disturbing than the actual conduct of the mob are the claims by right-wing pundits that this in fact was merely "democracy" in action. As if a crowd of 200 people shouting "we know where you live" at the elected officials charged with making the decision as to whether a recount should take place, is not intended to threaten and intimidate. As if flying party activists in from out of state to assault and batter officials from the opposing political party is not organized thuggery. Winning a democratic election happens when your candidate gets the most votes, NOT when you intimidate election officials into not counting all of the votes.
Readers of this zine are well aware that far worse election violence occurs regularly around the world. Moreover, it often happens even in the United States (I once worked on a California State Assembly campaign where the local Republican Party hired security guards to wait at polling places and intimidate latino voters).
What makes these events different for me is the attitude of the Republican Party as a whole. They know that Al Gore got 300,000 more votes than George Bush. They know that Al Gore won the Electoral College (not counting Florida). They know that if all the ballots are counted in Florida that Al Gore will most likely win there. Yet, they show no sense of shame at launching legal maneuver after legal maneuver aimed at stopping the vote count. Moreover, they cheer gleefully as a paid mob batters Democratic Party officials and intimidates the canvassing board into abandoning their announced recount of the votes.
Is the Republican Party so desperate to regain power that they will justify any conduct, any distortion of the democratic process? Are we to be governed by a President who lost the popular vote but through jackbooted intimidation managed to capture an Electoral College majority? This election marks a sharply negative turn in national American politics. If the eventual outcome is not transparent and just, I fear that the cycle of violence will only get worse.
Resisting GOP Thug Tactics Dennis Baer Essay
Ghandi saw the power of noncooperation. He harnessed the noncooperation to bring down a nation. Before I continue with Ghandi let me discuss a drop of water. Alone a drop of water doesn't do much but combine many drops of water and harness this water down Niagra Falls or Hoover Dam you generate power, alot of electric power.
Ghandi had people create their own yarn and make their own cloth and mine their own salt. He and his people then as a result did not spend that money with the British. Alot of money. This concentrated noncooperation helped bring down the British government in India.
Here in America we have a government in which 2 branches led by people known as Republicans. Their leaders view narrow, their leaders tactics harsh and mean and vicious. They love their friends but stand indifferent and hostile to those they do not know.
I toss the crate of tea over the dock into the harbor and pledge noncooperation with those companies that give money to the Republican Party. Those companies comprise the exposed Achilles heel of the Republican party at which we will shoot our arrow.
I look up towards Valhalla and see the image of Rosa parks who said you will not do this to me. I see Martin Luther King Jr, who along with Rosa Parks stand up to the people inflicting injustice on the African and win, not the next day but in time they marched toward higher dignity and strength through noncooperation. I see the image of Ghandi sitting at his wheel spinning his yarn that will clothe a nation and see him get up and walk to the water and scoop up the salt, the salt that will serve as an irritant to that haughty British machine in India, clogging its wheels and making it grind to a halt.
I look up towards Valhalla and see the image of Nelson Mandela who sat in a prison for 26 years, summoning his strength, gaining the focus and respect of the world, of which nations joined with Mandela to boycott the Achilles heel of the National party according to the Sullivan principles. I alone cannot do much but together we will harness our economic power and bring down to submission a Republican party that works against our interests.
Come gather your cloth, come to the water and gather your salt, refuse to sit in the back of the bus, set up your principles and hold the companies that give money to the Republican party accountable for the Republicans poor act, do not cooperate with them any longer.
Published on Sunday, December 24, 2000 in the Observer of London
Now It's Unofficial: Gore Did Win Florida by Ed Vulliamy in New York
As George W. Bush handed further key government posts to hardline Republican right-wingers, an unofficial recount of votes in Florida appeared to confirm that Bush lost the US presidential election.
Despite the decision by the US Supreme Court to halt the Florida recount in the contested counties, American media organisations, includ ing Knight Ridder - owner of the Miami Herald - have commissioned their own counts, gaining access to the ballots under Freedom of Information legislation. The result so far, with the recounting of so-called 'undervotes' in only one county completed by Friday night, indicates that Al Gore is ahead by 140 votes.
Florida's 25 electoral college votes won Bush the presidency by two seats last Monday after the Supreme Court refused to allow the counting of 45,000 discarded votes. But as the media recount was suspended for Christmas, the votes so far tallied in Lake and Broward counties have Gore ahead in the race for the pivotal state, and hence the White House.
Gore's lead is expected to soar when counting resumes in the New Year and Miami votes are counted. In a separate exercise, the Miami Herald commissioned a team of political analysts and pollsters to make a statistical calculation based on projections of votes by county, concluding that Gore won the state by 23,000.
The media initiative is likely to bedevil Bush in the weeks to come, thickening the pall of illegitimacy that will hang over his inauguration on 20 January.
It has already led to a face-off between almost all the news media organisations in the state and Bush's presidential team. In the most extreme example of the Bush camp's desperation to avoid a recount, the new director of the Environment Protection Agency, Christine Todd Whitman, has proposed that the Florida ballots be sealed for 10 years.
Bush's spokesman Tucker Eskew dismissed the recount as 'mischief-making' and 'inflaming public passions' while his brother, Florida governor Jeb Bush, accused the papers of 'trying to rewrite history'.
Meanwhile, Bush made his boldest ideological statement yet with the appointment of John Ashcroft as Attorney General.
The appointment is especially significant, because as head of the Justice Department Ashcroft would be the man to bring any felony charges against President Bill Clinton over the Lewinsky affair. During the scandal, Ashcroft was among the loudest and shrillest voices for impeachment.
There have been many calls to President-elect Bush to pardon his predecessor as a sign of peace, but he made a point of rejecting them.
Ashcroft lost his Missouri Senate seat to the widow of the state's popular Democrat governor, Mel Carnahan. From the family of a Pentacostal minister, he is an outspoken social conservative and an ally of the extremist Pat Robertson.
Ashcroft represents a host of militant committees and activist groups, of which the Christian Coalition is most prominent. He is an opponent not only of abortion but even - as he said in one speech - of dancing. © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2000