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.
Nails the Confession
There's Thomas Cooper who's crime is still in
And then Johnny Jackson Jr., on the purge list
because his name partially matched that
of a man convicted in Texas, John Fitzgerald
Jackson (no "Jr."). Johnny Jr.'s never been to
Texas, and his mama swears to me he never had
the middle name Fitzgerald. Neither is there any
evidence that John Fitzgerald Jackson, the felon,
ever left Texas -- or ever left his jail cell.
There are 638 John and Johnny Jacksons (and permutations
thereof) in the Florida phone book. How did the
state know they had the right Johnny? They didn't;
and it looks like they didn't want to know.
Using the address history database, as the state
was promised, would have saved Jackson, a Black
man, his right to vote.
Then there's Wallace McDonald, age sixty-four.
Wallace tells me how in 1959 he fell asleep on
a bus-stop bench and was busted. Even for a Black
man in then-segregated Florida, that was a misdemeanor,
not a felony. He never lost his right to vote;
and the state agrees he was wrongly "scrubbed."
Had DBT checked the databases, as promised, they
would not have named Wallace.
Willie Dixon is on the list, too. The Reverend
Dixon was convicted decades ago, and has received
full executive clemency. That would have
been an easy one to catch if the state had checked
and verified the clemency records as per the contract.
Read down the list and mismatches jump out at
you. Note they have taken voting rights away from
Randall Higginbotham, age forty-one, because of
the crimes of Sean Higginbotham, age thirty. The
list is lousy with suspicious matches: pairing
voter David Russell Butler Jr. of Florida to convict
David Butler of Ohio. No question why David R.
registered with his full name and appended the
Junior. There are sixty-six other David Butlers
listed in the Florida phone book and they must
get one another's mail all the time. It is disturbingly
improbable that they purged the right Butler.
That should have been a no-brainer to correct.
The wrong Butlers, Smiths and Jacksons remained
on the list because of DBT's "matching logic"
and "matching criteria." Credit card companies
can require thirty-five matches for verification
before they will issue you plastic. The State
of Florida was content with a partial match of
four: names (the first four letters were good
enough), date of birth, gender and race. Not even
the address or state mattered in the mad dash
to maximize the number of citizens stripped of
their civil rights.
Rather than add matching criteria to verify the
list, the state told DBT to remove criteria.
For example, Messrs. Butler and Jackson so carefully
added "Jr." to their official names to avoid such
confusion. Tough luck. I found an internal mail
in Roberts's office, dated June 14, 2000, in which
clerks fretted about what they called "tweaked"
data, allowing "matches" between Edward and Edwin
(and Edwina!); deliberately ignoring middle names
and initials; and skipping the "Jr." and "Sr."
I met with a Willie D. Whiting of Tallahassee.
The Reverend Whiting confessed he had a speeding
ticket a decade ago, but doubted that should cost
him his right to vote. But there he was: on the
purge list, matched with Willie J. Whiting
-- no "Jr." -- whose birthday was two days different
from Willie D.'s. Our experts looked at the paltry
number of match criteria and were horrified. One,
Mark Hull, told me the state and ChoicePoint could
have chosen criteria that would have brought down
the number of "false positives" to less than a
fragment of 1 percent. He said it made him ill
to learn what the company had agreed to do. These
revelations were especially upsetting to him;
he had been the senior programmer for CDB Infotek,
a Choice-Point company.
Vulture Opportunism versus Conspiracy
I now began to understand the brilliant deviltry
of the Black voter purge game. It did not matter
if, on Day One of the purge process, Republicans
had some grand plan, some elaborate conspiracy,
to eliminate the vote of African-American innocents.
Rather, document after document suggested that,
once the operatives saw the demographics of the
raw lists -- tens of thousands of names of mostly
Democratic voters -- they moved heaven and earth
to prevent its reduction. A list of 57,000 voters,
mostly Black, erased with the flick of a switch
was just fine with Ms. Harris and crew.
Make verification phone calls? Have statisticians
check the findings? Correct the methods? Why,
that would only cut the list . . . by 90 percent
at least. Why should a Republican administration
pay for that?
It's not "conspiracy," but opportunism. The Department
of Elections Republicans began to act like a bank
customer who accidentally receives a million-dollar
deposit that is not theirs: To fail to correct
the error, to actively conceal the error, is theft
in any court. Only here the crime was far bigger:
the theft of our democracy. Opportunism does not
require planning and conspiracy; it does require
In any investigation, I try to imagine myself
in the perps' shoes. If I had a magic list falsely
accusing my opponents' voters of crime, how would
I prevent the discovery that it is bogus? First,
don't dare verify the list; not one phone call.
Second, don't correct the methodology: Ignore
every warning about crap inputs, crap methods,
crap results. And third, for God's sake, don't
allow any independent statistician near it.
The Case of the Missing Statistician
Florida's contract with DBT states:
DBT shall consult a professional statistician. .
. . Upon the return of the processed data, DBT shall
supply the formulas and mathematical calculations
and identify the professional statistician used
during the verification process.
The 8,000-name Texas list had a 100 percent error
rate -- which seemed a wee bit high to me. What
kind of "academically based formula" was used
to verify the accuracy of these data? Who was
the consulting "professional statistician"? Inscrutably
silent on whether he or she exists, ChoicePoint
DBT referred me back to Clay Roberts. His minions
could not name this Man of Mystery either, although
the contract requires DBT to provide evidence
of the statistician's hiring and analysis. Neither
the name nor the calculations were filed as required.
Eventually, I found this: a letter dated March
22, 1999, from DBT to the state. "Our" statistician,
said the one-page note, "certified" their list
as 99.9 percent "accurate"! I can imagine why
"our" statistician would remain nameless: 99.9
percent accurate but almost every name an eligible
voter. No backup. Nada. How convenient.
No independent technician, no expert to see things
go rotten, no one to blow the whistle.
Evidence of Innocence: "Don't Need"
I turned back to the question of Florida hiring
DBT for $2.3 million, booting the company charging
$5,700. When questioned, George Bruder, ChoicePoint
DBT's senior vice president, said, "a little birdie"
told him to enter that astonishing bid. What else
did the little birdie tell him?
What happened to the 1,200 databases, the millions
and millions of records that DBT used in its Carl
Saganesque sales pitch to the state? In fact,
the state paid for this vital cross-check -- or
at least DBT's bid said that for their two-million-dollar
fee, they would use artificial intelligence for
"cross-referencing linked databases . . . simultaneously
searching hundred of data sources, conducting
millions of data comparisons, compiling related
data for matching and integration."
In all, they had four billion records to
check against. Under "Offer and Bid" it read:
will process total combined records from:
Criminal Conviction Records
69,000,000 Florida Property Records
62,000,000 National Change of Address Records
12,590,470 Florida Driver License Records. . .
And so on. The phone calls, the massive data crunching,
it all justified the big payoff to DBT and scared
away competitors who could not match DBT's database
firepower. DBT's offer promised "273,318,667 total
records to be processed." But they didn't do it.
Once the contract was nailed, it seems a little
birdie in the state told DBT not to bother with
all that expensive computing work. In the state
files, on the DBT bid, I found a handwritten notation,
"don't need," next to the listing of verification
databases (the 62 million address histories, etc.),
though this work was included in the price.
Each pass would have cut the list by thousands,
thereby letting thousands more Democrats vote.
So when the state said, "Don't need," the underlying
motive was, "Don't want."
"Wanted More Names Than We Can Verify . . ."
DBT's "expertise" in obtaining data justified
their hiring. But it was a con. Janet Mudrow,
the state's liaison with DBT, confessed to me
that DBT merely downloaded lists from eleven states
that make the data available publicly, such as
Texas. Any high school kid with a Mac and a credit
card could have grabbed the names off the Internet.
And that was okay with Florida, even though eight
of those states do not take away an ex-felon's
voting rights, and therefore should not have been
used at all.
DBT's negligence in handing Florida the bogus
Texas list cost Florida and its counties a pretty
penny when they tried to reverse that error. Yet
Mudrow, in Harris's office, says the state neither
demanded reimbursement nor sought any penalty
as permitted under the contract. In fact, the
state awarded DBT another contract renewal,
bringing total fees to over $4 million.
Why didn't the state complain, sue, or withhold
payment? Following my first reports, when the
stats hit the fan, ChoicePoint DBT agreed to a
one-year extension of their contract without charge.
But why didn't the watchdog bark?
One can only conclude that Harris's office paid
an awful lot of money for either (a) failed, incomplete,
incompetent, costly, disastrous work that stripped
innocent citizens of their rights, or (b) services
performed exactly as planned.
Was DBT paid to get it wrong? Every single failure
-- to verify by phone, to sample and test, to
cross-check against other databases -- worked
in one direction: to increase the number of falsely
accused voters, half of them Black.
How could ChoicePoint, such an expert outfit,
do such a horrendous job, without complaint from
their client? You'd think their client, the state,
ordered them to get it wrong. They did.
Just before we went on air in February 2000, ChoicePoint
vice president James Lee called us at the BBC's
London studios with the first hint that the state
of Florida instructed the company to give
them the names of innocents. The state, he said,
"wanted there to be more names than were actually
verified as being a convicted felon." What an
extraordinary statement. When ChoicePoint saw
the story with their own words -- "more names
than were actually verified" -- printed across
the screen, the company went ballistic. They demanded
in writing to my network chiefs that we retract
it all. The BBC wouldn't back down an inch.
McKinney Nails the Confession
Following the February 15, 2001, broadcast, only
one member of the U.S. Congress called BBC to
ask for our evidence: Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney.
This lady is trouble, the kind of trouble I like.
A Black single mom and doctoral candidate at Princeton's
School of Diplomacy, she is always asking questions.
And in the world of politics, that makes her dangerous
-- "radioactive," as a staffer from the Democratic
National Committee describes her. Unusual for
a member of Congress, she reads the detailed memos
and evidence herself, not delegating the research
to underlings. She knows her stuff. McKinney represented
Atlanta, the location of ChoicePoint's headquarters.
She demanded their executives appear before a
special hearing. As usual, she had some questions
she wanted answered, in public. So I handed McKinney
--and ChoicePoint -- the evidence. ChoicePoint
was shoveling a lot of nonsense my way, but I
figured the company might hesitate about shucking
and jiving a member of the U.S. Congress.
On April 17 ChoicePoint VP James Lee opened his
testimony before the McKinney panel with notice
that, despite its prior boast, the firm was getting
out of the voter purge business. Then the company
man, in highly technical, guarded language, effectively
confessed to the whole game. Lee fingered the
state. Lee said that, for example, the state had
given DBT the truly insane directive to add to
the purge list people who matched 90 percent of
a last name -- if Anderson committed a
crime, Andersen lost his vote. DBT objected,
knowing this would sweep in a huge number of innocents.
The state then went further and ordered DBT to
shift to an 80 percent match. It was programmed-in
inaccuracy. Names were reversedófelon Thomas Clarence
could knock out the vote of Clarence Thomas. He
confirmed that middle initials were skipped, "Jr."
and "Sr." suffixes dropped. Then, nicknames and
aliases were added to puff up the list.
told state officials," testified Lee, "that the
rules for creating the [purge] list would mean
a significant number of people who were not deceased,
not registered in more than one county or not
a felon would be included on the list. Likewise,
DBT made suggestions to reduce the numbers of
eligible voters included on the list."
Correct the list? Remove those "not a felon"?
The state, says DBT, told the company, Forget
Hunting the Black Voter -- the June 9 Letter
Florida was hunting for innocents and,
it seems, the Blacker the better. To swing an
election, there would be no point in knocking
off thousands of legitimate voters if they were
caught randomly -- that would not affect the election's
outcome. The key was color. And here's where the
computer game got intensely sophisticated. How
could it be that some 54 percent of the list were
Black? There is no denying that half of America's
felons are African Americans, but how could it
be that the innocent people on the list
were mostly Blacks as well?
In November, ChoicePoint's PR men jumped up and
down insisting in calls to me that "race was not
part of the search criteria." The company repeated
this denial in press releases after they were
sued by the NAACP for participating in a racist
conspiracy against citizens' civil rights. DBT
complained to my producers and to federal investigators:
Race was not a search criterion, period!
I obtained a letter dated June 9, 2000, signed
by Choice-Point DBT's Vice President Bruder written
to all county elections supervisors explaining
their method: "The information used for the matching
process included first, middle, and last name;
date of birth; race; and gender; but not
Social Security Number."
They had not lied to me. Read closely.
They used race as a match criterion, not
a search criterion. The company used this
confusion between "match" and "search" criteria
to try to pull the BBC off the track. They tried
to slide the race question by the U.S. Civil Rights
Commission. However, on the morning of February
16, the day after our broadcast, I faxed to the
commission the June 9 letter. Later that day,
the commission questioned Bruder.
COMMISSION: Was race or party affiliation matching
criterion in compiling that list?
BRUDER: [under oath] No. . . .
COMMISSION: [June 9 letter read into record.]
Did you write this letter? It has your signature
BRUDER: Can I see it, please?
COMMISSION: So, you misinformed the Florida supervisors
of elections that race would be used as a matching
Wise answer, Mr. Bruder. Misleading elections
officials is not a crime; perjury would be. He
pleaded confusion. So if race was not a match
criterion, how did Black people get matched to
felons? I was perplexed by this until I looked
again at the decoded scrub sheets: There were
columns for felon race and voter race.
How could DBT deny that? [Click here to see the scrub
list.] However, DBT had simply identified
race for every real felon, and the secretary of
state provided the race of the voters. It was
left to the county supervisors to finish the Jim
Crow operation: They would accept racial matches
as "proof" that the right person was named. Therefore,
a Black felon named Willie Whiting wiped out the
registration of an innocent Willie Whiting (Black)
but not the rights of an innocent Will Whiting
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