Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Unprecedented behavior

Tuesday Night, October 19th, the Democratic Party hosted a video at the Springfield Town Library. The notice in the Springfield Reporter said, "Join Secretary of State Deb Markowitz and statewide and local candidates for political conversation, refreshments and a showing of the film ‘Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election.’" Deb Markowitz was there, but only Democratic candidates were invited. The movie was shown and there were refreshments. Unfortunately, there was no discussion, which I had expected would be the case, but hope springs eternal. Though I had not seen it, I was familiar with the film and had learned that it was a Michael Moore-style hit piece full of inaccuracies and exceptional editing. The film touched on the felon purge list, racially-discriminatory disenfranchisement, and the "illegitemacy" of the Supreme Court’s involvement. It’s sources were the usual suspects: NAACP representatives including Kwesi Infume, the radical editorialist Greg Palast, Alan Dershowitz, Florida county election officials, but not one person given a fair chance to represent the other side - which, of course, is why I showed up. Following is only some of what the film left out.

"The report does not find that the highest officials of the state conspired to disenfranchise voters. Moreover, even if it was foreseeable that certain actions by officials led to voter disenfranchisement, this alone does not mean that intentional discrimination occurred." (Executive Summary of the US Commission on Civil Rights: Voting Irregularities in Florida During the 2000 Presidential Election) The dissenting report from the Commission casts serious doubt on the integrity of the data and analysis of the main report noting that Dr. Allan Lichtman, who did the statistical and analytical work, was a consultant to Al Gore and told the New York Times, before being hired to work for the Commission, that he believed the Voter Rights Act had been violated in Florida.

The US Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division had this to say, "The vast majority of Floridians were not denied their right to vote during the 2000 Presidential elections, and the few problems that did exist could not have affected George W. Bush’s victory." On May 21, 2002 Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division sent a letter to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) in which he wrote, "The Civil Rights Division’s investigation identified only a limited number of Floridians who were unable to vote,...experienced difficulty while voting..[or] ..confusion and delay in certain counties, often resulting from lack of language assistance."
Disenfranchisement was a big part of the film. It is a fact that in Florida felons and ex-felons are not allowed to vote. There is one segment where a county election official explains that she decided not to use the "purge list" because she could plainly see that it had many false positives. The film never takes the time to explain that the this lady was exactly right and doing her job - the list was made to be extensive to get all the felons purged. The lady also mentions the process of sending a notification letter to the ‘purged’ voter which the film breezes over. All purged voters were notified and could be re-listed and many were, as was reported in the Miami Herald. Though I never got to ask her, I am sure that Deb Markowitz would not countenance allowing illegal voters to vote, though the movie she promotes suggests we should.
Early in the film a particularly ugly assertion is presented as fact. The film blatantly states that Florida instituted the felon disenfranchisement laws to keep blacks from voting. This is a flat-out lie according to Alexander Keyssar, Harvard Professor and author of The Right To Vote: "The history of felon disenfranchisement...had little or nothing to do with race...[and] were enacted [by] Republican governments that supported black voting rights. By 1900 [such] laws were in place in a majority of states...(including even Vermont)." It should also be noted, "In 2000, Massachusetts and New Hampshire disenfranchised inmates. In 1999, Oregon disenfranchised federal inmates, in 1997 Colorado disenfranchised federal inmates and parolees and in 1998 Utah disenfranchised all inmates." (Summary of State Felony Disenfranchisement Laws 1860 - 2003)

There was a lengthy segment on the dimpled chad, the recounts and Katherine Harris. What was left unsaid was that Harris would have violated the law if she had not done as she did. "A vote for a candidate or ballot measure shall be counted if there is a clear indication on the ballot that the voter has made a definite choice." (Florida Statues Section 102.166(5)(a)) It doesn’t get much plainer than that folks. The Democrats in Florida (and elsewhere) want that to read rather broadly, but it says what it says and the legislature made it pretty specific, despite how the courts wanted to read it. The movie makes mention of the court case that required Katherine Harris to accept late returns. I have read that case and I suggest you do too - Judge Terry P. Lewis bends the law as far as he can but never requires her to accept late returns, rather he suggests that she could if she wanted to. However, Florida Statutes Section 102.111 has this to say, "If the county returns are not received by the Department of State by 5 p.m. on the 7th day following an election, all missing counties shall be ignored, and the results shown by the returns on file shall be certified." Maybe I am just too dim to see it, but where’s the wiggle room there? The Florida legislature carefully crafted these statutes to avoid just the sort of behavior that occurred when Al Gore asked for more time and the county elections officers wanted to see if daylight could shine through a hanging chad.

A point was made both in the film and by an audience member that the Supreme Court had no jurisdiction. I’m not a lawyer and I don’t play one on TV, but I do know how to read. Todd F. Graziano, who served in the US Dept of Justice, Office of Legal Counsel for Reagan, Bush, Sr, and Clinton, testified before Congress: "Some lawyers who should know better are continuing their effort to mislead the public...activist lawyers are joined by others who have a partisan motive..." He went on to explain that the issues raised in Florida were "important issues of federal constitutional and statutory law," specifically that "all the hand recounts were illegal under Florida statutes and that Article II of the Constitution required the federal courts to enforce that state Legislature’s mandate." The film said this ruling was 5 to 4, when in fact it was 7 to 2. What is most illuminating is what the film did not say, which is that the two dissenting judges, Stevens and Ginsburg, the most liberal ideologues, were forced to reverse positions they previously held to dissent in this case!

The first lawsuit filed favored Al Gore and was thrown out, but the film states that Bush filed the first action. The film completely mischaracterizes a study conducted for CNN and a bevy of other news agencies by the National Opinion Research Center. CNN reported, "Florida recount study: Bush still wins" and explains that only by extreme, and illegal, measures could the recounts have found a Gore win. I didn’t make that up, it’s the truth. Mrs. Markowitz spent some time promoting the Help America Vote Act, which I am sure is a wonderful thing, but (like the Motor Voter Act) HAVA is causing major problems with its provisional voting ballots. Contrary to Mrs. Markowitz’s portrayal, provisional voting is a perfect vehicle for election fraud. She mentioned the Portland canvasser that destroyed dozens of registration forms he got for Democrats because he was a Republican. She missed another Republican in Las Vegas doing the same thing. Somehow, she also neglected to mention ACORN, a liberal activist group, participating in Get Out The Vote, which is under investigation for thousands of fraudulent registrations in Colorado, Missouri, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Minnesota, Florida, and Ohio.
Also in Ohio, just last week, was Chad Staton, working on behalf of the NAACP (one of the sources for this film), who was arrested for filing over 100 false registrations, including Mary Poppins. Chad was paid for his work with crack cocaine. I wish I could make up stuff like this.
My favorite part of the film was when they showed it and explained how confusing the "butterfly ballot" was. I had to laugh when they interviewed two or three people who claimed they had miscast their votes with it. You see, I happen to have a photocopy of the infamous "butterfly ballot" and the night before, while preparing my information for the discussion period, my five year old daughter overheard my wife and I talking about the ballot. She insisted on having a turn to vote, so I handed her the page, asked her to find Bush’s name, and press his button. She is only five, so you’ll understand that it was child’s play for her to succeed. I then had her do the same for Gore, Harris, and Phillips. She did just fine, without coaching, on each vote. I am so often amazed that my five year old is capable of doing with ease what many Democrats seem to find so difficult.

What we need is an honest and balanced presentation of all the information available. Miscast and illegal votes should not be counted and those who cast them are not disenfranchised. This particular issue is an urban myth and it is reprehensible for State officers and candidates to propagate such a lie. Those who do are just not qualified to hold office. As a Secretary of State, I’d have expected Deborah Markowitz to be more responsible. Yes, I think it is irresponsible to present seriously flawed testimony and I think, as a lawyer, Mrs. Markowitz should think so, too.


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