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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.

The Harris Touch: Vote Rustling by Computer

One can't sabotage democracy with felon lists alone. Ballot-eating machines worked well in Gadsden and other Black counties, but cyberspace offers even more opportunities for fun and games. This time, it's "touch screen" voting. No paper trail, no audit path, no fights over recounts: recounts are impossible.

Florida, as you might guess, is the first to adopt this video-game voting technology statewide. Secretary of State Harris immediately certified the reliability of one machine, the iVotronic, from Election Systems and Software of Omaha. On their Web site, there is a neat demo of their foolproof system you can try out. I did -- and successfully cast an "over-vote," a double vote for one candidate. Then the site crashed my laptop. But hey, the bugs will be worked out . . . or worked in. The question is, who else is touching the touch screen? In the case of the iVotronics, it's Sandra Mortham. Her name rang a bell for me. In fact, "Mortham" rang several alarms. Mortham was Harris's Republican predecessor as secretary of state. She's the one who first hired DBT. Now she's iVotronics representative in Florida. And she's a busy lady, also operating, "Women for Jeb," one of the First Brother's re-election operations.

[For more on computerized voting, see the commentary I wrote with ML King III, and then sign the WorkingForChange petition to halt the switch to voting Vegas-style.]

The New American Apartheid: Race and the Bush Brothers

In 2002, in her triumphant run for congress, Harris told a campaign rally, "Before God, before my family, before my friends, before my nation, before the nation, I sleep well at night."

You're thinking, "With whom?" Well, shame on you. My thoughts were more sobering. Harris had, after all, effectively admitted in her screed to my editors at Harper's that she'd aggressively moved to disenfranchise thousands of innocent Black folks. Even if she believes she wasn't at fault, how could she sleep at night? I suspect she -- and the government and press -- would have been a bit more troubled if the wrongly purged voters came from country-club membership rolls: moneyed, important and white.

Don't kid yourself: the color of the excluded voters had an awful lot to do with why this investigation was dismissed by the U.S. media for so long. The "liberal media," as Harris calls them, would never recognize their own subtle prejudices. Why had Salon.com, which named the first part of my investigation their top political story, then lost its nerve and spiked Part II? The story Salon feared (eventually published in Nation and Harpers) centered on Pastor Johnson of Alachua, convicted in New York and therefore entitled to vote in Florida. Salon.com killed the story following doubts raised by of one of their editors. The preppy white Ivy Leaguer could not understand why a middle-aged Black man, an ex-con to boot, did not raise a ruckus in a county office in the rural South. Why didn't Pastor Johnson pound the table and demand his voting rights? After all, voters in Palm Beach had no problems complaining publicly.

Of the victims I spoke with, the only African Americans who would agree to talk on camera were the three clerics, whose collars afforded them a kind of cultural protection. Alachua County, Okeechobee this is still the Old South where, within the memory of many of these people, Black voters were hanged from trees. The deep, wounding history of Jim Crow explains the initial quiet of so many victims of the illegal purge, a caution echoed and affirmed by the silence of the Democratic Party. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, America is back to asking the question we thought resolved by the 1965 Voting Rights Act: Should Black people be allowed the vote?

So far, we've discussed only the purge of citizens illegally barred from voting, most of them falsely accused of having felony records. Even if that wrong is righted, a good half a million Floridians will still be barred from voting, quite legally under Florida law. And we know their color. One-third of all Black men in Florida have lost their right to vote.

And the Bush Brothers like it that way.

Within two months of the 2000 election, President Bush convened a Bi-BURP, a Bipartisan Blue Ribbon Panel to recommend reforms to prevent "another Florida."

Our president, to ensure that we understood clearly he had no intention whatsoever of heeding his panel's findings and recommendations, put two men in charge of the Bi-BURP for whom he has the fondest disregard: Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford. Relieved of the pressure of having to produce a plan that might be implemented, Carter and Ford got right to the heart of the matter on the faux felon purge: race. The former presidents called for an end to barring the vote to people who have served their time and gone straight. After all, only thirteen states hold on to these exclusion laws, originally passed by Deep South legislatures after Reconstruction while the Ku Klux Klan's night riders successfully cleared the voter rolls by more direct means.

Neither President Bush nor Governor Bush have bothered with even a false gesture toward implementing the Carter-Ford call to restore the rights of these (un-white) citizens. Jeb Bush's reforms are limited to multi-dollar contracts for the Mortham-matic touch screens.


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