Another fine mess in the making in Florida
By Molly Ivins, Columnist Ft. Worth Star-Telegram on the Web, August 15, 2004
Fort Worth, TX -- 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."
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 that no announcement was made at the time was because 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 chairwoman of the state George-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 that 8,000 of the blacklisted voters had been convicted of misdemeanors, not felonies.
This year, same song, second verse. Jeb Bush tried to purge 47,000 supposed ex-felons.
A Miami Herald investigation of the new list found that it wrongly listed 2,100 people whose right to vote 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 few Hispanics.
Hispanics in Florida tend to be Republican-leaning Cuban-Americans. Gosh, Jeb Bush was just astonished about the no-Hispanics thing -- except that the state had been repeatedly warned about it.
Florida finally withdrew the list on July 11. Then, on July 14, the 1st District U.S. Court of Appeals in Tallahassee ruled that the state must help felons fill out the form that they need to win back the right to vote after serving their time.
Instead, 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?
The Republican Party in Florida is 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 ...
Molly Ivins writes for Creators Syndicate, 5777 W. Century Blvd., Suite 700, Los Angeles, CA 90045.