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Stealing the Election in Florida

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The Unreported Story of How They Fixed the Vote in Florida
From the book, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy (Penguin 2003)
by Greg Palast

Reprinted in part from Pelast's book by workingforchange.com.

'This series is part of the WorkingForChange campaign, in cooperation with Martin Luther King III of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, to prevent the theft of the presidential election of 2004. There is a link included to sign onto the WorkingForChange/King petition.

'Katherine Harris: "Palast Twisted"'

And then, evidence began to disappear.

The counsel for the Civil Rights Commission told me he was most concerned about the purge of the 2,834 felons who did have a right to vote (he'd read my Nation article) -- a willful violation of two court orders. Proof of the illegal procedure was in a September 18, 2000, letter to county supervisors. The letter was read to me by two county clerks, but the sources were too nervous to fax me a copy. So I called Janet Keels in Governor Jeb Bush's Office of Executive Clemency; I wanted a hard copy of the letter. A crew with the documentary Unprecedentedcaptured the call on camera. . . .

My name is Gregory Palast and I'm calling from London.

"My name is Troy Walker."

Troy, maybe you can help me. There is a letter from Janet Keels's [Governor's] Office of Executive Clemency, dated September 18, 2000.This is to Hillsborough Board of Elections dealing with registration of voters who moved to the state, committed a felony but have received executive clemency. I'm sure you have a copy of it. . . .

"We do have a letter referencing something close to that."

Okay, what date is that letter?

"This letter is dated February 23, 2001."

What? He then read me a letter from Keels saying the exact opposite of the September 18 memo.

September 18 (before the election): convicts from other states moving to Florida "would be required to make application for restoration of civil rights in the State of Florida."

February 23 (after the election): out-of-state convicts "need not apply for restoration of civil rights in Florida."

The post-election letter was drafted one week after the Civil Rights Commission began to question Florida about the illegal maneuver -- and now Troy was telling me there was no recordof the first letter in Keels' files, or in the office's files, or in the state computers. Uh, oh. There were two explanations. Maybe I had screwed up. My most serious accusation, that the governor's office barred and removed thousands of legal voters in violation of two court rulings, may have been dead wrong. After all, the cautious clerks had merely read me the text of the letter. What if it had never been sent? What if I'd been had by my sources? The first edition of this book had already gone to press.

The other possibility: The letter existed but had been purged faster than a Black voter from the governor's files, replaced by the February 23 letter, with opposite meaning. If so, then Jeb Bush's office was skirting close to obstruction of justice.

Did the incriminating September 18, 2000, letter exist? In 2002, I obtained the answer -- from the most extraordinary source.

Katherine Harris: "Palast Twisted"

"Greg Palast distorts and misrepresents the events surrounding the 2000 presidential election in Florida in order to support his twisted and maniacally partisan conclusions." Had I said something to upset the secretary of state? So began Harris's letter, a vein-popping screamer running beyond a thousand words, dated April 2002, to my editors at Harper's. It contained, despite its gonna-beat-you-up tone, astonishing confessions. First, she does not deny the core allegation: that her list of 57,700 felons contained the names of thousands of innocent Democratic voters. You could have knocked me over with a feather when I read her acknowledgment that the debacle over which she presided as secretary of state "exposed flaws in the elections process that had festered across America for decades."

In the world according to Harris, blame flew everywhere, from the legislature to the attorney general, never landing on herself. But what caught my eye and made me grab for the phone was her excuse for the illegal purge of out-of-state convicts. Harris wrote that the governor's Office of Executive Clemency "issued a letter" telling her elections divisions to carry out the deed. "Hello. I just received a note from Secretary Harris regarding a letter she received from Governor Bush's office regarding [here I mentioned the felon issue, leaving off the bits about "twisted"]. . . . Could you fax me a copy?"

And within the hour, the clerk had sent me, word for word as it had been read to me by my sources, letter dated September 18, the smoking gun. Obstruction of justice, incontrovertible evidence. Somebody call Mr. Ashcroft and read Ms. Harris her rights.

[Take a look for yourself. Compare the post-election letter handed investigators to the pre-election letter spirited out of the Governor's files at www.gregpalast.com/images/voteletter1.jpg and www.gregpalast.com/images/voteletter2.jpg.]

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