And there's no getting around another disturbing fact. It isn't talked about much in the press, but the election was really decided by the Florida Republican political machine before it occurred. As Greg Palast writes in Harper's:
- In November the U.S. media, lost in patriotic reverie, dressed up the Florida recount as a victory for President Bush. But however one reads the ballots, Bush's win would certainly have been jeopardized had not some Floridians been barred from casting ballots at all. Between May 1999 and Election Day 2000, two Florida secretaries of state--Sandra Mortham and Katherine Harris, both protegees of Governor Jeb Bush--ordered 57,700 "ex-felons," who are prohibited from voting by state law, to be removed from voter rolls. (In the thirty-five states where former felons can vote, roughly 90 percent vote Democratic.) A portion of the list, which was compiled for Florida by DBT Online, can be seen for the first time here; DBT, a company now owned by ChoicePoint of Atlanta, was paid $4.3 million for its work, replacing a firm that charged $5,700 per year for the same service. If the hope was that DBT would enable Florida to exclude more voters, then the state appears to have spent its money wisely.
As shown in an early segment of "Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election," a concise and gripping 48-minute documentary, Jeb Bush's operatives specifically ordered DBT to use loose standards, even though the company said it would certainly result in "false positives"--that is, disenfranchisement of voters who truly possess the right to vote. Civil-rights groups and others have sinced raised hell about this scandal, but Jeb Bush managed to put off dealing with it until it was too late to fix before his reelection campaign in 2002. A company that analyzed the data has determined that 95 percent of those 57,000 voters were placed on the purge list in error, often simply because they had a similar name to a felon. The loose standards insisted upon by Jeb Bush's operatives meant that, for example, a man legally named "Johnny Jackson Jr." was purged from the registration list because the database found a felon legally named "John Fitzgerald Jackson" in Texas--of course, the race, black, did match.
If a typical portion of those disenfranchised voters had cast their votes, the Gore-Lieberman ticket would have won by a relative landslide: perhaps 22,000 votes. (Ya think those Republicans who became so enamored of "equal protection" when it rationalized the Supreme Court appointment of Bush are at all concerned about this? Hmm...haven't heard them mention it lately. I'm sure it weighs on them heavily, though.)
Nitpicking? Sure, if there were similar stories on the Republican side.But no groups of traditionally right-leaning voters were purged from the lists. In fact, the Republicans successfully intimidated Gore into allowing (generally conservative-leaning) military ballots that were clearly illegal--even ballots postmarked after the election. Even ballots in which the person wasn't even registered in the county. No--the stories all go in one direction: Disenfranchisement of the (mostly black) left, special treatment for the right. But that's politics. Jeb Bush had a mandate to "deliver the state," and he did. Even if he had to spend $4 million of Florida's money to remove legally registered black voters from the rolls.