Skip to comments.The Florida Myth: An urban legend to fire up the base
Posted on 07/15/2004 9:22:17 AM PDT by OESY
This article from October 15, 2003 was basically reprinted today in the New York Post under the title "2000 Vote Myths." It takes on a special relevance because of Kerry's false claim that one million blacks were disenfranchised in the 2000 election:
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The Florida Myth: An urban legend to fire up the base, by Peter Kirsanow
Political myths can overcome facts through sheer repetition: The New Deal ended the Depression, tax cuts caused budget deficits in the Eighties, etc. These myths serve vital partisan imperatives especially when the policy cupboards of the partisans are bare or vermin-infested.
One of the myths already resurrected for the 2004 presidential election cycle is that blacks in Florida were systematically harassed, intimidated, and prevented from voting in the 2000 presidential election the "stolen" election.
Even before the last vote had been cast, activists had descended upon Florida, claiming a widespread conspiracy to disenfranchise black voters. Allegations that state troopers put up roadblocks and checkpoints to prevent blacks from voting were rampant. Dogs and hoses were allegedly used to drive black voters from the polls. Bull Connor's heirs had been unleashed all at the direction of Governor Bush and his sidekick, Secretary of State Katherine Harris.
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights investigated these allegations over a six-month period beginning in January 2001. Its 200-page majority report, Voting Irregularities in Florida During the 2000 Presidential Election, excoriates Florida's election officials for various acts of misfeasance. But the conclusions drawn by the report often bore little relationship to the facts contained therein. And media descriptions of the report did little to dispel the widespread belief among the black electorate that blacks had been systematically targeted for harassment, intimidation, and disenfranchisement.
Of course, almost no one actually read the report. But the handful that did (especially the incisive dissent authored by Commissioners Abigail Thernstrom and Russell Redenbaugh) discovered the astonishing mendacity underlying the myth.
There's absolutely no evidence that a single person was intimidated, harassed, or prevented from voting by Florida law-enforcement officials.
Despite claims of rampant police intimidation and harassment, the only evidence of law-enforcement "misconduct" consisted of just two witnesses who described their perceptions of the actions of the Florida highway patrol. One of these witnesses testified that he thought it was "unusual" to see an empty patrol car parked outside a polling place. There was no evidence that sight of the vehicle somehow intimidated the witness or any other voters from casting ballots. There was no evidence that the erstwhile occupant of the vehicle harassed voters. There was no evidence that the empty vehicle was there for the purpose of somehow disenfranchising anyone assigned to vote at that location.
The second witness had filed a highly publicized complaint with the NAACP regarding a police motor-vehicle checkpoint. In the hysterical recount period following the election, the complaint took on a life of its own and apparently became part of the basis for the legend that legions of cops were harassing thousands of black voters throughout Florida.
The evidence, however, shows that the checkpoint in question was two miles from the polling place. Moreover, it was not even on the same road as the polling facility. During the checkpoint's approximately 90 minutes of operation, citations for faulty equipment were issued to 16 individuals, twelve of whom were white. The incontrovertible evidence shows that no one was delayed or prohibited from voting due to the lone checkpoint.
There's no evidence of systematic disenfranchisement of black voters.
The myth of a nefarious plot to thwart black voters from casting ballots is wholly unsupported by the evidence. Inconvenience, bureaucratic errors, and inefficiencies were indeed pervasive. But these problems don't rise to the level of invidious discrimination. (There was one case in which a black woman alleged that she was turned away from a poll at closing time whereas a white man wasn't.)
Much has been made of the "felon purge list," i.e., a list of those individuals who, under Florida law, were to be barred from voting due to felony convictions. The list had been prepared to prevent the kind of fraud that had occurred in the infamous Miami mayoral election, in which a number of ineligible felons voted.
The list was inaccurate; it included people who shouldn't have been on it. Thus, the myth holds that the purge list was somehow a tool to deny blacks the right to vote.
But facts are stubborn things. Whites were actually twice as likely as blacks to be erroneously placed on the list. In fact, an exhaustive study by the Miami Herald concluded that "the biggest problem with the felon list was not that it prevented eligible voters from casting ballots, but that it ended up allowing ineligible voters to cast a ballot."* According to the Palm Beach Post, more than 6,500 ineligible felons voted.
State officials were not at fault for widespread voter "disenfranchisement."
The myth holds that Governor Bush, in league with Secretary of State Katherine Harris, either by design or incompetence, failed to fulfill their electoral responsibilities, resulting in the discriminatory disenfranchisement of thousands of black voters. This was purportedly a key to the overarching Republican plot to steal the election from Al Gore.
Again, reality intrudes. The incontrovertible evidence shows that by statute the responsibility for the conduct of elections is in the hands of county supervisors, not the governor or secretary of state. County supervisors are independent officers answerable to county commissioners, not the governor or secretary of state. And in 24 of the 25 counties that had the highest ballot-spoilage rates, the county supervisor was a Democrat. (In the remaining county the supervisor was not a Republican, but an independent.)
Moreover, as is simply put by Commissioner Thernstrom, voter error is not the same thing as "disenfranchisement." Even if more black voters than white voters spoiled their ballots by mistake, that's not evidence of a scheme to discriminate on the basis of race, and it certainly doesn't evoke images of dogs and fire hoses.
After issuance of the commission's report, some diehards, perhaps realizing that history frowns on demagoguery, desperately sought any facts that might support the myth. The Justice Department was pressed for action, and conducted a thorough investigation. The result: The Civil Rights Division found no credible evidence in our investigation that Floridians were intentionally denied their right to vote during the November 2000 election.
The Justice Department did find violations of the Voting Rights Act in three counties. The infractions were that some poll workers had been hostile to Hispanic voters, bilingual assistance hadn't been provided to two Haitian voters, and some Hispanic voters had been denied bilingual assistance. None of the offending counties was controlled by Republicans.
Of course, there's a reason why charges of disenfranchisement have great traction among the black electorate. After all, the Voting Rights Act wasn't simply a piece of feel-good legislation. Poll taxes, literacy tests, and worse remain vivid memories for far too many.
That's precisely why baseless claims of voter harassment on the basis of race are particularly odious. They inflame racial tensions by perpetuating a belief that the shameful practices of two generations past continue unabated that a virulently racist hegemony is forever poised to subjugate minorities.
The consequences of generating suspicion of the electoral process for the sake of partisan advantage are at once insidious and profound. They dangerously undermine the legitimacy of government and encourage rejection of its authority.
The myth is poisonous to society and democracy. Its antidote is a relentless, adamant repetition of the truth.
I just watched Kerry accuse Republicans of denying 1 million African-Americans the right to vote - he was speaking at the NAACP convention. He also made a number of other various serious accusations against Republicans. The entire diatribe was built around his allegations that Republicans do everything in their power to deny A-As the right to vote.
No wonder M.F. Berry did everything she could to try and keep Kirsanow off the commission. This is a highly damning indictment of Berry and her race-baiting cohorts.
Without the lies the democrats have a real problem. Their whole platform is based on claiming they were robbed in 2000 and that Bush lied about Iraq. Without those lies they got nuthin.
Including Senator Kerry....He was probably too busy biking, getting his hair done/botox treatment, not attending sessions of congress, etc to have time to read....You'd think he'd have a committee organized to read it for him.
Even with those lies they don't have much.
I hope the Bush team doesn't allow these lies to stand. Kerry needs to be confronted immediately and forced to issue an apology.
He also has his personal intelligence sources, according to one remark of his staff that I read. Looks to me like he's setting up a shadow government.
Or reading People Magazine to hear how SEXY John Edwards was
LOL .. I can't believe he said that today
Now, a goodly part of those "million" disenfranchised Americans of African descent were in the military, and were attempting to vote absentee. And it has been the practice in heavily Democrat precincts to deny the counting of those votes from soldiers serving overseas, especially as it may tend to favor Republican totals.
(GASP!) Americans of African descent, in the military, may vote for a REPUBLICAN? Guess they just can't take a chance on that....
I watched Kerry's speech and I can honestly say when it comes to pandering, Kerry is second to none. It was no more than accusations and cheap shots designed to incite the deliberately ignorant. Then he had the gall to say he was the real uniter, not a divider.
Like HRC, he'll say or do anything to WIN the election....
Meanwhile, Kerry's still using the tired old spiel about making "every vote count" at the NAACP.
Anyone who'd believe that ios too stupid to vote in the first place.
Let me throw out a wild theory: the trooper parked his/her car so he/she could go inside to vote.
And the republicans should be out now saying it is a lie over and over again,with a clever saying ,kerry has nothing but lies because America is on track with Bush over and over again,but no they will be quiet.It makes me ill.
Way back before the primaries, I believe, Kerry said he would make sure no negative attack on him was ignored. He would always respond, and respond powerfully. He has done so. Bush/Cheney must do likewise.
They will, and so will all our republicans in office.After this election the republican people should do an overall of it's representation