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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.

Since this is a very long article from a whole chapter in Pelast's book, we are putting each section on its own separate page.

'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.

JIM CROW IN CYBERSPACE

In the days following the presidential election, there were so many stories of African Americans erased from voter rolls you might think they were targeted by some kind of racial computer program. They were.

I have a copy of it: two silvery CD-ROM disks right out of the office computers of Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris. Once decoded and fed into a database, they make for interesting, if chilling, reading. They tell us how our president was electedóand it wasn't by the voters.

Here's how it worked: Mostly, the disks contain data on Florida citizens 57,700 of them. In the months leading up to the November 2000 balloting, Florida Secretary of State Harris, in coordination with Governor Jeb Bush, ordered local elections supervisors to purge these 57,700 from voter registries. In Harris's computers, they are named as felons who have no right to vote in Florida.

Thomas Cooper is on the list: criminal scum, bad guy, felon, attempted voter. The Harris hit list says Cooper was convicted of a felony on January 30, 2007. 2007?

You may suspect something's wrong with the list. You'd be right. At least 90.2 percent of those on this "scrub" list, targeted to lose their civil rights, are innocent. Notably, over half "about 54 percent" are Black and Hispanic voters. Overwhelmingly, it is a list of Democrats. Secretary of State Harris declared George W. Bush winner of Florida, and thereby president, by a plurality of 537 votes over Al Gore. Now do the arithmetic. Over 50,000 voters wrongly targeted by the purge, mostly Blacks. My BBC researchers reported that Gore lost at least 22,000 votes as a result of this smart little blackbox operation.

The first reports of this extraordinary discovery ran, as you'd expect, on page one of the country's leading paper. Unfortunately, it was in the wrong country: Britain. In the USA, it ran on page zero, the story was simply not covered in American newspapers. The theft of the presidential race in Florida also grabbed big television coverage. But again, it was the wrong continent: on BBC Television, broadcasting from London worldwideóeverywhere, that is, but the USA.

Was this some off-the-wall story that the British press misreported? Hardly. The chief lawyer for the U.S. Civil Rights Commission called it the first hard evidence of a systematic attempt to disenfranchise Florida's Black voters. So why was this story investigated, reported and broadcast only in Europe, for God's sake? I'd like to know the answer. That way I could understand why a Southern California ho'daddy like me has to commute to England with his wife and kiddies to tell this and other stories about my country.

In this chapter, I take you along the path of the investigation, step by step, report by report, from false starts to unpretty conclusions. When I first broke the story, I had it wrong. Within weeks of the election, I said the Harris crew had tried to purge 8,000 voters. While that was enough to change the outcome of the election (and change history), I was way off. Now, after two years of peeling the Florida elections onion, we put the number of voters wrongly barred from voting at over 90,000, mostly Blacks and Hispanics, and by a wide majority, Democrats.

That will take us to the Big Question: Was it deliberate, this purge so fortunate for the Republicans? Or just an honest clerical error? Go back to the case of Thomas Cooper, Criminal of the Future. I counted 325 of these time-traveling bandits on one of Harris's scrub lists. Clerical error? I dug back into the computers, the e-mail traffic in the Florida Department of Elections, part of the secretary of state's office. And sure enough, the office clerks were screaming: They'd found a boatload like Mr. Cooper on the purge list, convicted in the future, in the next century, in the next millennium.

The jittery clerks wanted to know what to do. I thought I knew the answer. As a product of the Los Angeles school system, where I Pledged my Allegiance to the Flag every morning, I assumed that if someone was wrongly accused, the state would give them back their right to vote. But the Republican operatives had a better idea. They told the clerks to blank out the wacky conviction dates. That way, the county elections supervisors, already wary of the list, would be none the wiser. The Florida purge lists have over 4,000 blank conviction dates.

You've seen barely a hair of any of this in the U.S. media. Why? How did 100,000 U.S. journalists sent to cover the election fail to get the vote theft story (and preferably before the election)?

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