The Nation finds 200,000 Floridians disenfranchised
April 13, 2001 8:46 AM   Subscribe

The Nation finds 200,000 Floridians disenfranchised in voter-roll purging operations last year, a disproportionate number of them black. They charge this was an effort in direct response to phenomenally successful voter registration drives in the black community.
posted by dhartung (34 comments total)
The full Nation article, by Pulitzer prize-winning journalist John Lantigua, who previously investigated voter fraud in the 1997 Miami mayoral race.

(Postroad, I'm pretty sure this is what you were trying to link to with that Hotmail address!)

* One of 14 states that removes the right to vote from felons, Florida used error-ridden data banks. Often eligible voters with similar names were removed; they were not allowed to vote at the polls.

* Top officers in the election apparatus, including Republican politicians, knew that the process wasn't clean, but proceeded anyway.

* The state ignored complaints from disenfranchised voters beginning more than a year before the election.

* County supervisors requested funds for voter education, but the state refused.

Other problems found affected Latino voters, and often poll workers misinterpreted laws on election day. The Nation previously documented how Florida had illegally disenfranchised out-of-state felons.
posted by dhartung at 8:53 AM on April 13, 2001

Emmett "Bucky" Mitchell IV, the assistant general counsel to the Florida Division of Elections who headed the purge effort, knew that the purge lists would include people who were not felons because of the intentionally loose standards used to draw up the purge lists. Mitchell justified the standards to The Nation on the following grounds, "Just as some people might have been removed from the list who shouldn't have been, some voted who shouldn't have." In other words, because an ineligible person may have voted somewhere else, it was acceptable to deny a legitimate voter the right to vote. Mitchell said this policy was approved by the former head of the Division of Elections, after consultation with Secretary of State Harris.

Heck, "they all look alike" to him anyway....
posted by jpoulos at 8:58 AM on April 13, 2001

All I can say is Gore better run again.
posted by ParisParamus at 9:08 AM on April 13, 2001

At the last South By Southwest conference, on my way to the airport to go to NYC, the cabbie and I started talking politics (something I rarely do with strangers, but he brought it up).

It turned out that his wife worked for a firm involved with these allegations of fraud. According to him, there is evidence out there that even in just one county, 4,500 people were mislabled felons, including a prominent county official. His take on it was that the output from these firms collecting the felon data was error-filled, which the firms admitted to the state. Most counties would run audits of the data before using it, but he says there is evidence in the public record that Katherine Harris ok'd the data without ordering an audit in some places, knowing full well the consequences.

He told me this back in March, and said it would become a very big deal soon, and that all of the evidence is on the public record. He predicted there's no way out here, it'll become clear in the coming months how corrupt the election process was in Florida.
posted by mathowie at 9:34 AM on April 13, 2001

Dhartong: right. But it is the story and not my name that counts (sad to say). Question: remember when Jesse Jackson made a big thing of the disenfranchisement of black voters and vowed to take the battle to the streets?
What happened to that "drive"? He suddenly dropped the thing in its entirety, losing, for some of us, his role as an imporant voice for those left behind or out in the political scheme of things.
posted by Postroad at 9:55 AM on April 13, 2001

"I felt like I was slingshotted back into slavery," Reverend Willie David Whiting, a black pastor from Tallahassee, said after arriving at his polling place to find himself listed as a convicted felon and refused the right to vote despite never having spent a day in jail.

for some reason i don't think Reverend Whiting was ever a slave.
posted by alethe at 10:12 AM on April 13, 2001

I've read what you're talking about, Matt. Furthermore, there were allegations that Florida was paying millions of taxpayer dollars to a firm, whose job it was to check for and ameliorate any discrepancies in the voter rolls. As the story went, the firm failed to correct any problems before November 7, and ignored specific complaints to whit. Oh, and execs at the firm were later tied to Katherine Harris and other Republican policymakers. Good stuff! If you like reports of that sort of depressing beaurocracy.

I just spent a few minutes trying to track down the link -- this was probably through MetaFilter, but I'm busy at work and don't have time to sift through every post about the election.

Is the Nation influential in centrist circles, despite its typically liberal agenda, enough for this story to make waves? Sadly, I think it won't, because of its reputation. But the facts have been correlated in more than one place.
posted by legibility at 10:16 AM on April 13, 2001

for some reason i don't think Reverend Whiting was ever a slave.

Probably not, alethe, but his ancestors likely were, no? It would be like one of us saying we felt like we'd been transported to the middle ages if we visited an impoverished village in eastern Europe. And it seems a not irrational response to the situation. How would you feel if someone told you you couldn't vote because you were on a list of felons?
posted by anapestic at 10:16 AM on April 13, 2001

What surprises (and saddens) me most is the lack of outrage among Americans (at least the 50 million who voted for Gore) at what was essentially a stolen election.

For some good outrage, check out this.
posted by mapalm at 10:33 AM on April 13, 2001

How was this election "stolen"? Bush got more votes in Florida. Remember the Florida Supreme Court having a personal vendetta against Judge Sauls in completely reversing his decision and trying to steal the election for Gore, and Chief Justice Well's scathing dissent? If the FSC hadn't tried to steal this election in the first place, there would've been no reason for the USSC to "steal" it back.
posted by gyc at 10:39 AM on April 13, 2001 the article.
posted by mapalm at 10:44 AM on April 13, 2001


just thought it was an odd way to say it

...but i don't think we'd say that we felt as if we were impoverished as they were or would assume to know what the villagers completely felt i would feel? -- not sure, i would think it would be arrogant of me to assume i knew
posted by alethe at 10:47 AM on April 13, 2001

Postroad, I think the whole revelation of his affair and out-of-wedlock child derailed those plans. If I were prone to conspiracy theories, I'd postulate the Republicans dug up the dirt just to distract him. But I'm not so prone to conspiracy theories.
posted by megnut at 10:52 AM on April 13, 2001

Alethe, it would be arrogant of you to assume you'd know what it would feel like to have your right to vote taken away? Are you serious? Like, there's a good chance you'd be happy? Either you're seriously lacking basic human empathy, or you're being disingenuous, and trying to make anapestic seem arrogant for implying that people should be angry that one of their most basic rights as a member of our society was taken away.
posted by Doug at 11:34 AM on April 13, 2001

Or maybe there's no comparison between losing one chance to vote out of a lifetime and actual slavery.

I would assume Whiting was being somewhat hyperbolic, though.
posted by sonofsamiam at 11:39 AM on April 13, 2001

The title of the article, should anyone care, comes from an epigram written by Sir John Harington, courtier of Queen Elizabeth and inventor of the flushing toilet:

Treason doth never prosper: what’s the reason?
For if it prosper - none dare call it treason.

posted by holgate at 11:48 AM on April 13, 2001


not at all - i'm just saying that i don't know how i'd feel - perhaps i would be angry, perhaps not. i didn't mean to suggest anything negative about anapestic's view...and i know that some feel very angry about what happened in florida -- i just don't like hypothetical situations about how i would feel -- to me they are never, can never be an accurate account of whatever true emotions arise out of a real situation.
posted by alethe at 11:51 AM on April 13, 2001

(mapalm's "outrage" article, that is.)
posted by holgate at 11:54 AM on April 13, 2001

...but i don't think we'd say that we felt as if we were impoverished as they were or would assume to know what the villagers completely felt

It's in inexact analogy, because Eastern European whites in America weren't intentionally and systemically kept out of the voting booths in the South within living memory. And that's why Whiting was resorting to hyperbole; "back to slavery" is more memorable than "back to Florida in the early Sixties when people shot at Freedom Riders", but I think the latter is more closer to his literal meaning.

Holgate, there was also a highly amusing (in retrospect, at least) anti-Communist tract of that name written in the '50s (or possibly very early '60s), which detailed how the Reds had infiltrated every aspect of American society. Good stuff!
posted by snarkout at 12:10 PM on April 13, 2001

gyc, you should also know that the FSC acted EXACTLY as it should have in overturning Judge Sauls. He treated the proceeding over which he presided as if it was an appeal of what had happened before, when it was, in fact, an original proceeding. This means that little or no evidence was taken by Sauls, and the previous vote Certification was assumed correct. Blame the dumb media for never explaining what and why the FSC did what it did, and why it was proper. Of course, blame the USSC, ultimately.
posted by ParisParamus at 12:22 PM on April 13, 2001


it wasn't my analogy to begin with, but i tried my best to run with it

i guess i'm not completely convinced that people who use phrases like 'back to slavery' are engaging in hyperbole.
posted by alethe at 12:32 PM on April 13, 2001

I'm a little suspicous of an article that starts out with a point that has been disproven time and time again. I'm referring to the so-called checkpoint at voter places that was put up just to disenfranchise black voters. That checkpoint is there pretty often and was proven even on the big networks that it's used all the time.

Not only that, I need to ask people that think this is outrageous, what does a checkpoint have to do with disenfranchisement of voters? If these people didn't do anything wrong then why are they scared of a checkpoint? Hmmmmm, makes ya wonder doesn't it? We have drunk driving checkpoints here where I live all the time, do you think I worry about them, no, I know I'm not doing anything wrong. You show the officer your license, he smells your breath, whatever else they do, and the you go on. hmmmm, still don't understand this whole checkpoint thing. Please somebody explain it to me.
posted by the_0ne at 2:31 PM on April 13, 2001

He told me this back in March, and said it would become a very big deal soon.

He's wrong. Everything he said had already long since been hashed out in the press.
posted by aaron at 2:45 PM on April 13, 2001

still don't understand this whole checkpoint thing. Please somebody explain it to me.

In many ways, it borders on harassment.

This country doesn't have a good track record for law enforcement officers dealing with African Americans, we can all agree on that, right?

Even if you've never done anything wrong, and you're an African American, don't you think going through a checkpoint to vote is going to be somewhat demeaning to you? You have to prove you're not a felon before you get to vote?

This isn't child adoption, it's simply voting, and I'd prefer it if my government gave me the benefit of the doubt, and trusted that if I cared enough to come out and vote, that I would be truthful about my background and voter status.

the_One, answer me this question, if you will:

What is so wrong and earth shattering about a convicted felon being able to vote for his/her representatives?
posted by mathowie at 2:53 PM on April 13, 2001

> still don't understand this whole checkpoint thing

I think the problem is the assumption of guilt rather than innocence. Checkpoints go against the "innocent until proven guilty" premise that is a cornerstone of the American legal system. It also seems to go against the fourth ammendment (though I don't know the legal precedence for this) of "unreasonable searches and seizures."

When you're stopped, you're giving up control and power to those who've detained you. Given the history of discrimination and intimidation directed at black Americans, it's hard to ensure these types of actions will be done impartially and fairly. And when something timely like voting is concerned, this can be the difference between placing your vote and not. All it takes is one asshole to "make a mistake" and you've lost your rights.

Should everyone be tested for AIDS just because some people might have it?
posted by megnut at 3:13 PM on April 13, 2001

the_One, I like your style, brother. In fact, why don't we just arrest everybody, then have a trial and see if they did anything wrong. That's the way it SHOULD be.
I wont get into the more subtle points of intimidation, especially that which can be most easily felt in low income, minority neighborhoods, cause I feel it might be lost on you.
posted by Doug at 3:58 PM on April 13, 2001

megnut, I"m not one for conspiracy theories much either, but Karin Stanford ... Jesse's mistress ... is now writing a book underwritten by either Judicial Watch (Scaife) or Lucianne Goldberg (Freeper heroine), depending on reports. I tried to verify this but only got a sketchy Enquirer story summary.

Checkpoints are constitutional in cases such as driver safety checkpoints only as long as everyone is treated equally, meaning that inspections cover every single driver, or a preset percentage like every other vehicle. (In short, the cops aren't supposed to eyeball the drivers and cherry-pick which ones to inspect.)

The Voting Rights Act of 1965, however, which until recently was still used to justify federal oversight in much of the South, mandates further against intimidation. Basically, voting day anywhere is a bad day to run a checkpoint.
posted by dhartung at 4:04 PM on April 13, 2001

What is so wrong ... about a convicted felon being able to vote ... ?

Nothing, in 37 states. Something, in 13 others. Legislators have tried many methods of deterring crime over the years. This is one of them. Some places you go to jail, some places you commit a felony, you forfeit your right to vote. Having said that, creating copious rolls of convicted felons is even more deplorable.
posted by netbros at 4:08 PM on April 13, 2001

Everything he said had already long since been hashed out in the press.

Most notably, the foreign press.
posted by holgate at 5:08 PM on April 13, 2001

Doug Did you see anything in my post that said I loved being stopped by the cops and being asked to show my license for nothing??? No, I didn't, I said that I didn't see the big deal of being scared to death of them and making a big stink about this voting thing that has happened when if you did nothing wrong you have nothing to worry about. I've personally never been stopped by any of them, but have seen the list in the paper every weekend of where they are located. If I had to go to that section of town, then I WOULD HAVE TO go through the checkpoint. Big Deal.
posted by the_0ne at 6:43 PM on April 13, 2001

the_One, answer me this question, if you will:

What is so wrong and earth shattering about a convicted felon being able to vote for his/her representatives?

In some states it's the law that they can't, that's what's wrong with it. In some states it's not.

The only thing I see wrong with it is they vote 80%+ for democrats. <BG> That was a joke.
posted by the_0ne at 6:46 PM on April 13, 2001

Checkpoints go against the "innocent until proven guilty" premise that is a cornerstone of the American legal system.

I agree on this point; I'd love to see checkpoints go. But they have been ruled to be allowable under the Fourth Amendment under some circumstances, so our opinions on it don't matter for that much. Perhaps when a few more SC justices get appointed it will change.

But, there is no evidence whatsoever that these checkpoints were set up for any voting-related purposes; the evidence I've read said they were regular checkpoints based on a schedule that had been in place for quite some time. And there is most certainly no evidence that the checkpoints were there to stop black people. If they see that as inherent harassment, when people of every race are being stopped, then that, I'm afraid, is their problem, and they'll just have to learn to deal with it, find another route to their polling place, or stay home and pout. African-Americans have no right to preferential treatment by the police, nor should the police have to completely throw out one method of catching criminals just because it makes people who happen to have dark skin feel bad when they see it happening.

In NYC, there is at least one officer present at every polling place at all times. Do the feelings of African-Americans - and only some of them - override the need of the city to ensure that rampant vote-tampering doesn't occur at every precinct throughout Election Day?

While it wouldn't solve the false problem of "intimidation," there is a simple way to clean up 90% of the electoral mess in one fell swoop: Immediately pass a law that demands some form of identification be presented at two points in the voting process: When registering and when voting. All the "motor-voter" bills of the last decade, which were rammed through purely because they knew it would add to the Democratic rolls (and it did), have made it absolutely impossible for the government to prevent all but the absolute lamest attempts at voter fraud. You can mail in a form claiming to be anyone you want, as long as there's someone at the address who will accept the card when it arrives. And when you show up to vote, they're usually not allowed to ask for any ID beyond your signature. And since you're the one that filled out the form in the first place, the signatures will match. That is absolutely unacceptable.
posted by aaron at 11:33 PM on April 13, 2001

I'm sorry that citizens who could "probably" vote for Democrats (jeez, what an assumption, isn't that racist or something?) aren't considered "real" citizens. Perhaps we should reconsider that one-man-one-vote thing. Maybe a Democratic vote should count for 3/5th of a "real" vote. Or perhaps we could use a "lighter" color for the red. Would that make you feel better?

Grabbing the most outré of extrapolations and showing it's indefensible (for example, taking Gary Webb's "Dark Alliance" articles and treating them as though they prove the CIA directly shipped cocaine) is more a coverup than an argument. And what about the Bush-RICO-gang promoting absentee voter fraud? Or the voter intimidation and other irregularities that have been alleged? Can't you come up with anything that doesn't depend on denying first-hand witness testimony?
posted by retrofut at 3:04 AM on April 14, 2001

(Sorry, aaron, I overlooked the last half of your post.)

First, there were allegations of precinct workers refusing to give people (apparently black in the cases that spoke up) provisional ballots (apparently a requirement under the law, under some Federal adjudications concerning previous voter fraud, including Xavier Suarez, whose last election in 1997 was overturned because of charges of voter fraud and falsification of records and who "helped fill out absentee ballot forms and enlist Republican absentee voters in Miami-Dade County") when their voting status was challenged. And the phone of the state adjudicator was apparently off the hook all day of the voting. Then the was the elite-riot of trucked-in "outside agitators" [Sixties reference, sorry] during the recounts.

I'm all for positive identification and all against voter fraud (like in St Louis, say). But wouldn't Bob Barr have something to say about a national ID card? (Oops, whole other issue.)

ps: if i'm to be pegged as a Bush-hater (a popular projection of the Clinton-haters -- will they ever tire of speculating how the Starr-nominal cigar smelled?), let it be known that i thought Clinton was rather toxic to the Constitution, particularly the fourth amendment, as well, and it says a lot about the Repubs that their candidates were unelectable compared to him.

pps: The_One, it seems you're not likely to be stopped for Driving While Black. You're so lucky, pat yourself on the back and consider why, eh.
posted by retrofut at 5:38 AM on April 14, 2001

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