May 10, 2006
Wake up, Florida voters: Because of our history of hitches, glitches, pitches and switches at the polls, your ballot may still be ditched this fall. We were bushwhacked in 2000 and in 2004. And it may be déjà vu all over again in 2006, unless you help implement the single most important way to restore trust in our elections.
Proof that voting in Florida is in free-fall is everywhere. Go to www.voteprotect.org, click on Maps/Research, then on Election 2004, for the tip of the iceberg: 1,118 voter horror stories in Broward (the most in the state), 712 in Palm Beach County, 1,115 in Miami-Dade, and others around the state.
Then, digest these disheartening regurgitations from a report of The National Research Commission on Elections and Voting, A Project of the Social Science Research Council (http://elections.ssrc.org/ research/FinalReport030105.pdf):
1. "Florida continued to have registration problems prior to the 2004 election. One particularly stark incident was the declaration of an assistant supervisor of elections in Duval County that too many voter registration cards were being filed and that his office would not be able to process all of them despite its legal obligation to do so."
2. "Approximately 60,000 absentee ballots [in Broward and Palm Beach counties] were never mailed, even though the Supervisors of Elections claimed to have delivered them in a timely fashion to their post offices."
Scratch your head over a report on the 2004 general election in Miami-Dade from the county's Election Reform Coalition (www.reformcoalition.org). Among a pile of puzzlements, it concludes that seven polling places had between 50 and 99 more voters than ballots and that four polling places had over 100 more voters than ballots. In addition, six polling places had between 52 and 100 more ballots than voters, and one polling place had 282 more ballots than voters.
New York University Professor Mark Crispin Miller sees a Republican plot in "the felonies, anomalies and improprieties" in Florida voting that, he says, "were more numerous and flagrant than in any other state," including Ohio. The author of Fooled Again: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election & Why They'll Steal the Next One Too (Unless We Stop Them), Miller fills 350 pages with facts that should shatter your trust in elections in general and Florida elections in particular, if you still had any:
1. In 2003, our Republican-dominated Legislature "passed the Provisional Ballot Statute, which dictates that provisional ballots must be cast in the voter's precinct, and nowhere else" -- a requirement that is stricter than federal law and that Miller believes was done to suppress the vote. He also quotes an Associated Press report that "two-thirds of Florida's provisional ballots had been tossed."
2. In Duval County, home to Jacksonville, a city of 840 square miles, "Republicans [were able] to slash the early vote by setting up just one early-polling place, conveniently located miles away from Jacksonville's black neighborhoods."
3. "All over Florida … countless would-be voters told of the machines they used, or tried to use, malfunctioning in Bush's favor. Machines would not take Kerry votes, or turned them into Bush votes."
4. Voters in minority precincts were disproportionately targeted for challenging. Miller quotes a published report that in Miami-Dade County, "Democrats said, 59 percent of predominantly black precincts have at least one Republican poll watcher, while [only] 24 percent of predominantly white precincts have them" -- a pattern repeated in at least Leon and Alachua counties.
5. Once again, in 2004, a system to purge felons from voter lists wound up disenfranchising and harassing legitimate voters.
6. Jeb Bush and former Secretary of State Glenda Hood fought off U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler's effort to get a paper trail for touch-screen machines. (Undaunted, Wexler is suing in federal court.)
Human error and duplicity aside, Florida voters will never trust election results until the state has done everything it can to make electronic voting fail-safe. Urge Secretary of State Sue Cobb (850-245-6501) and Jeb (850-488-4441) to order paper backup -- immediately.
The least that our Bush can do in 2006 would be to take an obvious first step to restore our faith in democracy that the other Bush whacked away in 2000.
Stephen L. Goldstein's commentaries appear on alternate Wednesdays. E-mail him at email@example.com.
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