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Monday, February 06, 2006

Part 4 of 5

Racism and Thievery in Florida

The final official tally put Bush just hundred of votes ahead of Gore in Florida's 2000 Presidential Election: 2,912,790 for Bush to 2,912,253 for Gore. When the Supreme Court illegaly prevented the counting of votes in Florida, Gore was less than 300 votes behind and counting.

Florida is part of a minority of states who do not allow ex felons to vote in Presidential Elections. Of the 35 states who do allow ex-felons to vote, they vote 90% for the Democrats. Florida has nearly half a million ex-felons who are denied the right to vote. Clearly if these people were allowed to vote, Gore would have won. The law remains the law, however, we need not point to that stat to establish a stolen election. Still it's worth noting that nearly all of these people are poor blacks and latinos.

The problem with the purge of ex-felons from the voter list is that the Republican appartus went way too far and broke the law. In 1998, Florida became the first state in the union to privatize the purge of felons from the voting rolls. The Republican Secretary of State handed the firm over to a friendly Republican company, Database Technologies (now known ans ChoicePoint, Inc.).

If you commit a felony in a state which does not deny ex-felons the right to vote, you retain voting rights when you move to a state that denies ex-felons voting rights. Nonetheless, 3000 people who committed felonies in states where they retained their voting rights were purged from the rolls in 2000 and made ineligble to vote. The full faith and credit clause of the Constitution guarantees that each state honor the judicial decrees of the other states. These felons all were guaranteed the restoration of their voting rights at the end of a given period through the statutes relating to their convictions in other states. Florida had to honor their voting rights without asking them to do anything more. The only 2 Florida cases on point, one of which was at the Court of Appeals, and both explained that the law was clear: Florida must let these people vote. Jeb Bush, believing himself to be a dictator, ignored the courts and the legislature. No statute authorized Bush’s action to unilaterally purge all of these people from the rolls.

Another list of purged voters include 8,000 people convicted of misdemeanors. Misdemeanants have the right to vote; that purge was patently illegal. It was up to local election officials to try and sort out who really could vote, something which likely didn’t happen for most of those purged voters. The NAACP later sued the state of Florida for the illegal voter purge and ended up settling for an undisclosed large amount. Unfortunately, by then George W. Bush had already been “selected” President.


The Republican Party continued their terrorist attack upon our nation’s democracy by gaming the system to destroy black votes. In heavily black, Democratic Gadsden county, one in 8 votes was ruled “spoiled” and discarded. The Republican Secretary of State Katherine Harris equipped Gadsden with an optical vote machine that labeled votes as “spoiled” if they had just one extra mark anywhere on the ballot. Further, the ballots were unusually confusing. In a nearby white, heavily Republican Tallahasse county, they used the same confusing ballots. Yet there, local officals examined the votes to ensure people were filling them out correctly. Voters were able to revote until they got it right. The black voters in Gadsden county did not get the same treatment. This is the equal protection violation, not the nonsense the Supreme Court shoveled to us when they awarded the Election to Bush.

53% of the 180,000 “spoiled” votes belonged to Black voters. Blacks constitute just 13% of the voting population in Florida. Do the math: blacks lost votes disproportionately and this cost Gore the election.

Although both Bush and Gore had to fight the same fight in the courts, Bush spent 4 times as much money on the recount than Gore. How can this be? The answer is simple and sadistic: while Gore's money went almost entirely to lawyers, Bush's money went mostly to funding a PR war. The idea of Bush was that the law would follow the PR, despite the fact that the law exists independtly of political spin. Bush was right.

Thousands of dollars went to Republican operatives across the nation. They appeared on TV shows, speeches all over America and demonstrations in Florida itself. The common thread: Democrats were inventing votes and trying to steal the election. (It's often effective to denounce the exact practice one is guilty of committing; it's a classic trick of scam artists to deflect attention.)

The Republican disdain for the rule of law showed itself when George W. Bush began publicly denouncing the Florida Supreme Court for trying to usurp the power of the legislature. Bush seemed to forget that the role of the courts is to interpret law. Gore, on the other hand, said that he disagreed with the Supreme Court's ultimate decision but that he would respect the rule of law. The Republicans shared no such respect.

This Republican hatred of the rule of law culminated in an immoral riot to subvert the legal process. On November 22, 2000, the Miami canvassing board announced that they would begin to review 10,750 disputed ballots which had not previously been counted. Brendan Quinn, the executive director of the Republican Party of New York, told two dozen Republican operatives to storm the room and stop the recount. The media and most onlookers were stunned; the popular assumption at the time was that mere concerned citizens had broken through. To the Republicans, the idea that concerned citizens would try and physically stop illegal counting of votes presented the ideal message with which to sell their story about Democratic vote theivery. The canvassing board had that a Republican conspiracy was actually responsible for the mob. The mob entered the room and began screaming to try and get the vote count shut down. Proof positive evidence later emerged that at least 12 of the rioters were Republican operatives; 6 were directly paid from Bush's recount fund.

The Republican mod succeeded. Fearing physical violence, the canvassing board stopped the recount within minutes. The Brooks Brothers Riot was an organized Republican effort to defeat the rule of law by acting like ravenous animals fighting for food: no rules, no laws, winning is everything.

The media never bothered to investigate the Brooks Brothers riot. Since the discussion is beyond the scope of this article, I won't get into detail, but suffice it to say the corporate media played a huge role in Election 2000. First, the media crucified Al Gore for a series of alleged “lies” that had nothing to do with governance while gave Bush a free pass to viciously lie about his tax and social security plans. Gore never said he created the internet or that he “found” Love Canal, but the media repeated those lies anyways. To the media, it was ok to lie about complex details that actually affect America, but not ok to misspeak about pointless events. Second, the media's so-called "objectivity" turned the corporate media into a bullhorn for Republican propaganda. Objectivity is reporting the truth without the spin; the facts as they present themselves. The media doesn't report in this manner -- to the media, "objectivity" is just reporting what the Democrats said and then what the Republicans said and equating both views as equally plausible. Objective analysis of the facts, however, plays no role in the modern day media. Bush can keep saying that "the verdict is out" on global warming and the news keeps repeating it without adding that the verdict is in fact NOT out on global warming. In Election 2000, Democrats tried to argue like professors in a salon while Republicans argued whatever served their position best, regardless of the truth of their claims. Third, the media helped give legitimacy to Bush's Presidency that was undeserved. Despite findings that Gore would have won the election had a statewide recount been conducted, the media spun the results heavily for Bush. He was the President and his party were the ones paying their bills. The truth mattered not to the corporate media. Evil logic, but logic nonetheless. Finally, the media didn’t care about the Supreme Court’s theft or about the massive theft of votes in Florida. Once 2001 rolled around, they had bigger fish to fry: Gary Condit and Chandra Levy.


The 2000 election contained the trademark of past Republican victories: massive disenfranchisement of solidly Democratic black voters. But 2000 was far more troubling than usual. The felon purge reflected a conscious violation of the rule of law in order to “win” elections. The design of poor voting machines in black districts pointed to a more specific plan than normal. Events like the Brooks Brothers Riot showed that a right-wing army of foot soldiers had been assembled to throw the election to Bush at all costs.

The 2000 election left a lot of people with a bad taste in their mouths. The Republicans had long been disdainful of democracy, but after 2000 no one could ignore the GOP's massive war against the democratic process. What could come next? And now that the world would closely follow future US elections for election fraud, would the Republicans still be able to openly flaunt democracy?

My argument in Democracy: Dead or Alive is that it would be foolish to assume that the war on democracy ended in 2000. The motive and opportunity remained there, although massive felon purges weren’t going to work anymore in the future. New tactics would be required, and perhaps have been tried. In my final post in this series, I will examine allegations of voter fraud in subsequent elections.

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