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Jeb Bush's Secret Weapon

by Larry Jordan

The other voting scandals
(AR) -- With their typical inability to focus on more than just a few issues at a time, the national media have been doing a very inadequate job of covering the election controversy in Florida. Lost amidst all the blather have been some significant facts which have either not been covered at all, or at least have not been sufficiently stressed.

As was widely reported, there was voter confusion over an illegally designed "butterfly" ballot in Palm Beach County. After the election, Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan acknowledged that his blip of 3,704 votes in the staunchly Democratic county with a large Jewish population almost certainly resulted from confusion. Buchanan said he believed those votes were intended for Gore. But Gore probably lost far more than those few thousand votes; in Palm Beach County, there were 19,120 ballots disqualified because of double-voting. The Palm Beach County canvassing board analyzed a sample of these disqualified ballots. From that sample of 144 ballots, 80 ballots -- or 56 percent -- showed punches for both Buchanan and Gore. If that sample percentage reflects the entire batch, Gore may have lost as many as 10,622 votes.

George W. Bush protests that military absentee ballots were selectively rejected, but the supervisor of elections of Seminole County allowed two GOP operatives to "correct" 4,700 Republican-only absentee ballots that were invalid because they were missing voter ID numbers. The ballots were then accepted. Democrats are arguing that all 17,000 absentee ballots in the county should be thrown out as a result, but their lawsuit has yet to be heard.

Republicans sent out postcards over Jeb Bush's signature in a get-out-the-vote effort that ran afoul of the laws intended to prevent abuse of absentee voting. In Oskaloosa County in the Florida panhandle, which is heavily Republican, officials sent out more than 17,000 absentee ballots, including to people who did not request them -- a clear violation of state law.

With so many voting irregularities apparent even on the day of polling, it only stood to reason that the Democrats would seek to ascertain a more accurate vote tally. They have been criticized for having requested recounts in largely Democratic counties, but they did so primarily because that's where most of the problems occurred.

Interestingly, an investigation by the Orlando Sentinel revealed that these counties had been relegated some problem-prone voting machines, which were known to have an error rate five times higher than the more accurate equipment which was used in Republican dominated counties.

This may have been the Republicans' secret weapon, and the reason why Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, brother of the GOP Presidential nominee, was so sure Dubya would carry the state. It allowed Bush to squeeze out the maximum number of votes in friendly precincts while Democrats waged an uphill battle to record all the votes due them.

Substantial numbers of minorities faced obstacles
But that's not all. In Duval County (Jacksonville, Fla.) double-marked ballots substantially affected Mr. Gore's showing, an analysis of voting data suggests. More than 20 percent of the votes cast in predominantly African-American precincts were tossed out, nearly triple the number in majority white precincts. In two largely black precincts, nearly one-third of the ballots were invalidated. Altogether, 21,942 ballots were rejected because the voter, in confusion, punched the hole beside the name of more than one candidate.

Aside from the mechanical problems with the vote tabulations, evidence now suggests that on election day, many white Florida officials were doing their utmost to make sure blacks and other minorities (who historically favor the Democrats) didn't vote. That's the real scandal.

In a maneuver that smacks of the civil rights fights in the old South, substantial numbers of minorities faced obstacles at the Florida polling booths:

  • Carpools of African-American voters were stopped by police and in some cases, officers demanded to see a "taxi license"

  • In Osceola County, Hispanic voters were required to produce two forms of ID when only one is required. Also, ballots did not line up properly, possibly causing Gore voters to have their ballots cast for Harry Browne

  • The Miami Herald reported that many Haitian-American voters were turned away from precincts where they were voting for the first time

  • Many African-American first-time voters who registered at motor vehicles offices or in campus voter registration drives did not appear on the voting rolls, according to a hearing conducted by the NAACP

  • Jewish precincts had a suspiciously high number of double-punched ballots, and another lost its computerized votes altogether when a poll worker "accidentally" erased them

  • The Florida Highway Patrol confirmed that the department did conduct what it called a "routine" check point near a black precinct in Tallahassee on election day. Police asked black men to get out of their vehicles and produce identification

  • African Americans received calls the weekend before the election from a speaker who falsely claimed to be with the NAACP, asking them to vote for Bush. Similar calls were reported in Michigan and Virginia

As Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post commented on MSNBC last week, no doubt somebody is, at this very moment, compiling a book which will be published after this controversy is over. No doubt it will be a blockbuster. Only then will we find out more about the behind-the-scenes machinations going on in this election dispute.

Larry Jordan is Editor of Midwest Today (

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Albion Monitor November 27, 2000 (

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