UPDATE 2: JUNE 3, 2012
According to Think Progress:
The State of Florida has not...already decided to defy the Department of Justice and continue the purge. In an email to ThinkProgress, Florida Secretary of State spokesman Chris Cate confirmed that the state was still reviewing the DOJ’s letter and would issue a formal response by June 6.UPDATE 1: JUNE 2, 2012
On Thursday, the Department of Justice sent what amounted to a "cease and desist" order to the state of Florida. Apparently--surprise!--the states efforts to remove the names of people believed to be ineligible to vote from its voter rolls appear to violate the Voting Rights Act and may be discriminatory. Ken Detzner, Florida's secretary of state indicated that he will defy the Federal government's warning not to continue purge voters from the state's rolls. Detzner's office issued this response:
“We have an obligation to make sure the voter rolls are accurate and we are going to continue forward and do everything that we can legally do to make sure than ineligible voters cannot vote,” said Chris Cate, a spokesman for Detzner. “We are firmly committed to doing the right thing and preventing ineligible voters from being able to cast a ballot. We are not going to give up our efforts to make sure the voter rolls are accurate."
"Florida elections supervisors said Friday they will discontinue a state-directed effort to remove names from county voter rolls because they believe the state data is flawed and because the U.S. Department of Justice has said the process violates federal voting laws.
The Justice Department letter and mistakes that the 67 county elections supervisors have found in the state list make the scrub undoable, said Martin County Elections Supervisor Vicki Davis, president of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections."
In April, Detzner sent the supervisors a list of over 2600 voters identified as potential "non-citizens" by matching the state's voter database with driver license records. But due in part to an outcry by the public and previous irregularities in how Florida "cleans up" its voter database (see original post below), the Justice Department issued the warning letter. According to the Palm Beach Post:
Supervisors were supposed to send letters to those on the list notifying them to provide proof of citizenship within 30 days or be removed from the voter rolls. But supervisors say they have found errors, including some on the list who have died, many who have become naturalized citizens since they first got their driver licenses, and others who are U.S.-born citizens -- including a 91-year-old, Brooklyn-born World War II hero who now lives in Broward County.Shit just got real. Stay tuned and pour yourself a glass of something (preferably strong). This will be going on for a while.
Every four years it's like a big budget box-office thriller. Only this time is very different from last election--the movie is a sequel to the 2000 flick. You remember the one, right? George Bush wins the election by a hair's breadth of a few hundred votes in Florida? Yeah, the actors are different--it's no longer George Bush's brother as Governor, and Katherine Harris is no longer the stern-faced visage of anti-democratic principles. This particular movie features the Jim Carrey/The Mask look-alike Rick Scott (a reviled, tea-party governor that even my republicans parents despise).
We've seen this movie before, and it sucks
It's been widely reported that the state of Florida (as in the phrase, "What the Florida did they do this time?!") is in the process of removing "felons" from its voter registration rolls. This, of course, is code disqualifying minorities and anyone who could potentially be a democrat from exercising their constitutional rights to vote.
By the Numbers
The Fair and Legal Elections Network is mounting opposition to the action in Florida. According to the group, the data collected are incredibly inaccurate and unreliable:
The state of Florida has incorrectly identified numerous citizens for removal from the voter rolls leading up to the November election, leaving numerous groups questioning the motivation behind the purge and reminding many of the faulty voter purges that took place in 2000 and 2004.
The Florida Division of Elections recently made headlines by announcing that a shocking 180,000 non-citizens could be on the list of registered voters in Florida alone. Despite noting that the list was not guaranteed to be accurate, the release of the names created a large stir with numerous outlets reporting on the shockingly high number.
Of the initial 180,000 voters, the Division of Elections targeted 2,600 supposed non-citizen voters after vetting the broader list. These names were sent to local Supervisors of Elections to be removed from the rolls, leading counties to send notices asking for follow up action by the voter within 30 days. Those who failed to act would be removed from the rolls.
The targeted voters are overwhelmingly Hispanic, the largest minority population in the state. Numerous targeted voters have now come forward to prove their citizenship, with some showing their proof of naturalization and others showing proof that they were born in the United States.A National Strategy to Disenfranchise Voters Because Republican "Leverage Goes up as the Voting Populace Goes Down"
If these political sociopaths are permitted, they will remove as many "enemy" voters as possible, most of which will be minorities--just as they did in 2000 and 2004. But just as frightening, there has been a concerted effort nationwide to remove or otherwise tamper with, peoples' ability to vote--especially people of the democratic, not batshit crazy, variety. According to Rolling Stone:
As the nation gears up for the 2012 presidential election, Republican officials have launched an unprecedented, centrally coordinated campaign to suppress the elements of the Democratic vote that elected Barack Obama in 2008. Just as Dixiecrats once used poll taxes and literacy tests to bar black Southerners from voting, a new crop of GOP governors and state legislators has passed a series of seemingly disconnected measures that could prevent millions of students, minorities, immigrants, ex-convicts and the elderly from casting ballots. "What has happened this year is the most significant setback to voting rights in this country in a century," says Judith Browne-Dianis, who monitors barriers to voting as co-director of the Advancement Project, a civil rights organization based in Washington, D.C.
Republicans have long tried to drive Democratic voters away from the polls. "I don't want everybody to vote," the influential conservative activist Paul Weyrich told a gathering of evangelical leaders in 1980. "As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down."
All told, a dozen states have approved new obstacles to voting. Kansas and Alabama now require would-be voters to provide proof of citizenship before registering. Florida and Texas made it harder for groups like the League of Women Voters to register new voters.
Voting is the purest expression of our fundamental, democratic right. The insane--and ironically named--"right" clearly don't get this. (Or, if they do, they simply don't care.) The map below from the ACLU outlines the states where voter suppression measures have been or are being considered. It's a little dated, but they urge citizens to: Tell Attorney General Holder: Protect Every Citizen's Right to Vote »
Video from Rachel Maddow on the Subject
How could this happen? The Voter Fraud in Florida that Decided our Fate. After all is said and done, the disenfranchisement of the voting population in Florida--literally thousands had their constitutional rights abrogated--ensured that George Bush would become our president. And we run the risk that, if the election is close again, that this institutional attack on basic civil rights could be repeated again this year. Click below to read the background.
What happened in 2000?
1998, Florida's Department of Elections contracted with a database company to eliminate convicted felons from its voter registration roles.
Jeb Bush, was the Florida's governor, and a new contract was awarded to a company called Database Technologies (bought by ChoicePoint in 2000) to eliminate felons from its voter registration rolls. DBT was supposed to review the names and potentially use "manual verification" techniques, including phone calls and statistical sampling. Now, here's where things get interesting. The Florida Central Voter File sums it up:
At first, Florida specified only exact matches on names, birthdates and genders to identify voters as felons. However, state records reveal a memo dated March 1999 from Emmett "Bucky" Mitchell, a lawyer for the state elections office who was supervising the felon purge, asking DBT to loosen its criteria for acceptable matches. When DBT representatives warned Mitchell that this would yield a large proportion of false positives (mismatches), Mitchell's reply was that it would be up to each county elections supervisor to deal with the problem.
In February 2000, in a phone conversation with the BBC's London studios, ChoicePoint vice-president James Lee said that the state "wanted there to be more names than were actually verified as being a convicted felon".Leave it to the Brits to help us sort out our faulty little democratic experiment. The next bit is the main guts of the problem, and it's the kind of detail that the anti-democratic near-sighted far rightists hope that no one focuses on, because it's exactly the kind of thing that will happen again.
In April the Company charged with doing the voter registration purge protested that the criteria were too loose and would yield a huge number of false positives. Translation: You'll be eliminating the right to vote of many innocent people.
James Lee's Testimony. On 17 April 2001, James Lee testified, before the McKinney panel, that the state had given DBT the directive to add to the purge list people who matched at least 90% of a last name. DBT objected, knowing that this would produce a huge number of false positives (non-felons).
Lee went on saying that the state then ordered DBT to shift to an even lower threshold of 80% match, allowing also names to be reversed (thus a person named Thomas Clarence could be taken to be the same as Clarence Thomas). Besides this, middle initials were skipped, Jr. and Sr. suffixes dropped, and some nicknames and aliases were added to puff up the list.
"DBT 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. DBT made suggestions to reduce the numbers of eligible voters included on the list". According to Lee, to this suggestion the state told the company, "Forget about it".
"The people who worked on this (for DBT) are very adamant... they told them what would happen", said Lee. "The state expected the county supervisors to be the failsafe." Lee said his company will never again get involved in cleansing voting rolls. "We are not confident any of the methods used today can guarantee legal voters will not be wrongfully denied the right to vote", Lee told a group of Atlanta-area black lawmakers in March 2001.One man removed from the voter rolls was Reverend Willie Whiting, who had his democratic right to vote terminated for a speeding ticket near 25 years before. Why? His name was confused with Willy J. Whiting, and their birthdays were two days apart.
Who was purged: The demographics
Not surprisingly, the people who were purged from the polls were primarily African Americans who voted overwhelmingly democratic:
According to the Palm Beach Post, among other problems with the list, although blacks accounted for 88% of those removed from the rolls, they made up only about 11% of Florida's voters.
Voter demographics authority David Bositis, a senior research associate at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Washington, DC, reviewed The Nation's findings and concluded that the purge-and-block program was "a patently obvious technique to discriminate against black voters".Let's talk numbers.
None of these statistics mean anything without numbers, because the mainstream media considered that the Florida recount would have given Bush more than 537 votes. But they didn't include institutional voter fraud in their analysis, of course. Here's what the numbers came out to:
There were many specific problems with the purge list regarding the verification of felons, including over 4,000 blank conviction dates, and over 325 conviction dates dating in the future.
Nearly 3,000 out-of-state ex-felons with voting rights restored, as well as voters linked to felonies in states which do not remove felons from voting rolls or that automatically restore voting rights, were included on the list.
DBT had decided in March 1999 not to include felon lists from South Carolina or Texas, which automatically restore voting rights, but that was overruled by the head of the Florida Office of Executive Clemency, Janet Keels, who ordered inclusion of any felon who did not have a written order of clemency, even from these states, wrongly placing 996 voters on the felon list. Florida did not restore their voting rights until three months after the election. [emphasis added]
Additionally, a number of persons listed as felons had been convicted of misdemeanors only, and therefore were eligible by law.
Greg Palast, who has investigated this issue and identified occurrences of these problems, provides a sample of 23 names as they appear on the Florida 2000 felons list, with five examples of these erroneous listings highlighted (this represents a minimum rate of inaccuracy of 22% in this sample). Thomas Cooper, the second one in the list, was listed as being convicted on January 30, 2007.