in part from Pelast's book by workingforchange.com.
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.
George W. wants to "help America vote"
The Florida vote count vaudeville has been used
as cover to monkey with voting systems in several
states -- all under the grinning disguise of "reform."
Leading the charge: our Reformer-in-Chief, George
W. Bush, who last year signed the something called
the, "Help America Vote Act."
When George Bush wants to help us vote, I get
a little nervous; nervous enough to read the fine
print of his helpful law. Here's what I found:
If you liked the way Florida handled the presidential
vote in 2000, you'll just love Help America
Vote Act -- and similar laws that have passed
in the last two years in 10 states, and have been
proposed in 16 others. The laws mandate
the system that was at the heart of the Florida
debacle: computer-aided purging of centralized
The Republicans especially have made brilliantly
cynical use of hanging-chad mania to sell HAVA
and other schemes to "fix" the voting systems
which ain't broken. Take the case of Georgia.
The day before the November 2000 election, the
Atlanta Journal-Constitution and WSB-TV jointly
reported deceased Georgians had voted 5,412 times
over the last 20 years. They trumpeted the case
of one Alan J. Mandel, who they said cast his
ballot in three separate elections after his demise
in 1997. Subsequently, a very live Alan J. Mandell
(note the two L's) told the secretary of the state
that local election workers had accidentally checked
off the wrong name on the list. Under a law signed
April 18, 2001 -- an imitation of the ill Florida
code -- Georgia's secretary of state now controls
"list maintenance" and has taken over the power
of deleting the names of dead voters.
We've seen reform before. Florida's Blackhunt
purge began under the cover of the voting "reform"
law passed by the state in 1998.
Who is the carrier of this ill "reform" wind?
One vector is the high-sounding Voter Integrity
Project, based just outside Washington, DC. 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.
VIP's founding chairwoman is Helen Blackwell,
wife of Ronald Reagan's staffer Morton Blackwell.
Just before the November 2000 election, VIP presented
its special Voter Integrity Award to DBT -- at
a VIP conference substantially paid for by . .
. ChoicePoint's DBT unit, the company that gave
Florida the bogus list of 'felons.' Noting proudly
that "DBT is the company tasked with helping Florida
clean up the State's voter registration records,"
VIP then launched into a campaign to take DBT's
Florida methods to other states. VIP announced
it had "entered into an agreement with DBT Online
to identify small communities with demonstrated
need for similar pro bono voter rolls ëscrubbing.'
" Offers were extended to Pennsylvania and Tennessee,
with Florida, the states considered toss-ups in
the Gore-Bush race. (According to investigator
Catherine Danielson, it looks like Bush won Tennessee
the way he won Florida, through another odiferous
Notably, when Republican senator Chris Bond, joined
at a press conference by VIP's chairwoman, announced
he was introducing a bill to force Florida's voting
methodologies on the entire nation, then-Senator
Bob Torricelli stood with him grinning and agreeing
-- which proves one can always find Democrats
willing to attend their own political funeral.
the Loot: Keeping the Florida Voter Rolls Whiter
Back in Florida, the NAACP, acting on my report
in Salon and the London papers, sued ChoicePoint's
DBT, Katherine Harris and Clayton "Road Runner"
Roberts for violating the civil rights of thousands
of Florida citizens as guaranteed by the 1965
Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution.
Harris insists she did no wrong. But a trial would
have been a risky move for Harris, then running
for Congress. (In June 2002, the last time she
defended herself in court, a judge reached an
unusual, albeit insightful, verdict: "This lady
is crazy." Lucky for Harris the judge's remarks
referred to her perverse interpretations of law,
not to her general state of mind; otherwise, under
Florida regulations, she would have to be purged
from the voter rolls.)
With purge files oozing to the surface, ChoicePoint
DBT announced it was getting out of the Scrubs-R-Us
business and pleaded for mercy from the NAACP,
begging for settlement, thereby avoiding class-action
claims. Besides, having been so helpful to the
President's election, they were now well placed
for more lucrative business. (Following the September
11, 2001 attacks, ChoicePoint became one of the
top recipients of lucrative no-bid, no-limit contractors
for the War on Terror, offering up its multi-billion
record databases to the Department of Homeland
In July 2002, Choicepoint's DBT signed off with
People for the American Way, which acts as the
NAACP's law firm, and confessed to the whole mess.
They provided the court with list of 94,000 names,
far more than I expected, who were targeted for
the purge. Until then, I had estimated that the
list had at best one in ten verifiable names.
I was too kind. The DBT records show that one
in thirty names on its list positively matched
name, age, social security number race and other
identifiers with the "felons" they were purported
to be. In other words, over 90,000 citizens, half
of them non-white, were wrongly named.
Harris, to avoid spending her congressional campaign
locked in a witness box explaining her Jim Crow
operation, her office and the state of Florida
agreed to return the voters to the voter rolls.
Sadly, they explained, they could not return the
voters their rights until after Governor Bush's
[Note: Last month, in July 2003, I returned to
Florida with my BBC crew to Congresswoman Harris'
district. I met with the lead plaintiff in the
NAACP case, Willie Steen, a veteran and hospital
worker whom Florida agrees was wrongly tagged
a felon. Steen to this day remains barred from
registering to vote. Steen -- no surprise here
-- is an African-American.]
And where, in all this, was the press? Finally,
in summer of 2001, mirabile dictu, the Washington
Post ran the story of the voter purge on page
one, including the part that "couldn't stand up"
for CBS and Salon . . . and even gave me space
for a bylined comment. Applause for the Post's
courage! Would I be ungrateful if I suggested
otherwise? The Post printed the story in
June, though they had it at hand seven
months earlier when the ballots were still being
counted. They waited until they knew the findings
of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission report, which
verified BBC's discoveries, so they could fire
from behind that big safe rock of Official Imprimatur.
In other words, the Post had the courage
to charge out and shoot the wounded.
and the People Who Count: A Conclusion
This story of stolen elections -- the last one,
the next one -- is not about computers, database
management or voting machinery. If the theft of
U.S. elections can be prevented by fixing our
voting methods and equipment, we could solve our
problems by the means suggested by the Russian
Duma. The Russians voted a resolution demanding
that American presidential elections, like Haiti's
and Rwanda's, should be held under the auspices
of the United Nations.
The solution to democracy's ills cannot be found
in computer fixes or in banning butterfiy ballots.
All that stuff about technology and procedure
is vanishingly peripheral to this fact: In 2000,
the man who lost the vote grabbed the power. I
reported these stories from Europe, where simple
minds think that the appropriate response to the
discovery that the wrong man took office would
be to remove him from that office.
So where do we turn? The Democrats' employing
William (son of Boss) Daley as their spokesman
during the Florida vote count, and Al Gore's despicably
gracious concession speech, show that both political
parties share, though in different measure, a
contempt for the electorate's will.
Two other presidential elections were nearly stolen
in the year 2000, in Peru and in Yugoslavia. How
ironic that in those nations, though not in the
United States, the voters' will ultimately counted.
Peruvians and Yugoslavs took to heart Martin Luther
King's admonition that rights are never given,
only asserted. They knew: When the unelected seize
the presidential palaces, democrats must seize
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