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Let's worry more about election shenanigans in Florida
by Molly Ivins
Creator's Syndicate
August 17, 2004

AUSTIN, Texas -- In the national "Crossfire" that passes for political debate these days, we observe much arm-waving over whether the latest "terrorist threat" warnings are on the level or merely designed to take voters' minds off bad job news, bad Iraq news, bad Afghanistan news, etc. I boldly suggest not a single mouth-flapper on either side has any idea. How the hell would any of them know what Al Qaeda is up to?

If you want to make the point that Karl Rove is perfectly capable of using terrorist threats for political purposes, go right ahead, but that doesn't mean he's done so.

Meanwhile, we might more profitably continue our efforts to keep a grip on reality by paying attention to some of those little things, those itty-bitty things that are observably so.

Florida, the Fun State, is off to a fast start on election shenanigans this year. Undeterred by the state's electoral disgrace in 2000, elections officials there have all but publicly announced, "We're going to cheat again this year." In July, voting rights groups asked for the audits of the 2002 gubernatorial election, supposedly collected by new electronic voting machines. Ooops. Records gone.

Two computer crashes last year, officials said, erased the records of both the primary and general elections. Here's my favorite part: A spokesman for the Miami elections office said the reason no announcement was made at the time was officials believed "it was merely a record-keeping issue." Said Seth Kaplan, "There's always a fine line between speaking out about things that are truly necessary to speak about and not unnecessarily alarming the public." How true that is.

Furthering the festive atmosphere is the unfortunate fuss over the felons' list. You may recall that in 2000, thousands of Floridians were deprived of the right to vote because they have the same names as someone, somewhere who was once convicted of a felony. If, for example, a "Bill Smith" in Kansas City had done time for burglary 20 years earlier, any "Bill Smith" in Sarasota, Seminole or Solana also found himself knocked off the voter rolls. It was a horrendous injustice and a scandal at the time. Who would have guessed that Gov. Jeb Bush would choose to simply repeat it? This guy has chutzpah out the wazoo.

In 2000, a firm with GOP connections was hired by then Secretary of State Katherine Harris (also chair of the state Bush-for-Prez campaign) to scan felon records nationwide and then purge Florida voters with similar -- or almost similar -- names. Bush officially carried Florida by 537 votes that year. Florida newspapers later found 8,000 of the blacklisted voters had been convicted of misdemeanors, not felonies.

This year, same song, second verse. Gov. Bush tried to purge 47,000 supposed ex-felons. A Miami Herald investigation of the new list found it named Democrats by a three-to-one margin and wrongly listed 2,100 people whose citizenship had already been restored through a clemency process.

The Tampa Tribune produced an even more startling discovery: While half of those on this year's list are black, the list contains the names of fewer than 100 Hispanics. Hispanics in Florida tend to be Republican-leaning Cuban-Americans. Gosh, Gov. Bush was just astonished about the no-Hispanics thing -- except the state had been repeatedly warned about it. He finally withdrew the list on July 11. Then, on July 14, the First District U.S. Court of Appeals in Tallahassee ruled the state must help felons fill out the form they need to win back the right to vote after serving their time. Instead, Gov. Bush eliminated the form.

One tries not to be alarmist, one tries not to be paranoid, but this doth smelleth. Is there any Republican who would be happy if the role of the parties were reversed here and only Hispanic felons had been on Jebbie Bush's little list, but no blacks? Come on.

The Republican Party in Florida is now urging its voters to use absentee ballots so they will have a paper trail in case of a recount. Hey, if it's good enough for Republicans ...

Here are a few more little items: The Department of Defense is now outsourcing the job of preparing the national defense budget to ... private defense contractors. Isn't that special? The Center for Public Integrity has found at least three private-sector contracting firms advertising jobs for analysts to work on the development of the president's defense budget.

More good news: Those vigilant folks at Homeland Security are allowing the nuclear industry's leading lobby to develop the teams of mock-terrorist attackers who will supposedly probe and evaluate security at nuclear power plants. According the Project on Government Oversight, "The lobby, called the Nuclear Energy Institute, in turn hired the company with the biggest financial stake in finding no problems at the plants -- Wackenhut Corp., the nation's largest security plan provider."

"This is more than a case of the proverbial fox guarding the henhouse," said the project's director. "It is not an apparent conflict of interest, but a blatant conflict of interest."

To find out more about Molly Ivins and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2004 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC
.

Topplebush.com
Posted: August 17, 2004

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