Citizens for Legitimate Government, a multi-partisan activist group established to expose the Bush Coup d'Etat and oppose the Bush occupation in all of its manifestations.

 

On The Front Lines in Florida


Spurred by the unwillingness of the broadcast media to report voting problems during the 2004 election race, we want to alert our friends, family and colleagues to the widespread voter suppression and disenfranchisement that occurred in Broward County, Florida. We staffed the emergency hotline for the Kerry Campaign Headquarters in Broward County from late October through the election. All of us were devastated by the margin of Bush's win in Florida, particularly since polls predicted the race would be extremely close.

Many of the calls to our hotline were from voters who had pressed the "Kerry" button on their electronic voting screen, only to have "Bush" light up as the candidate they had chosen. In some cases, this would happen repeatedly until about the 5th or 6th time the voter pressed "Kerry" and eventually his name would light up. In other cases, the voters pushed "Kerry" but were later asked to confirm their "Bush" vote.

We had calls about a road block, put up by the police at 7am on November 2, which blocked road access to two precinct locations in majority black districts. There was no justification for the road block -- no accident or crime scene or construction.

Many of our calls dealt with voter suppression, or manipulation, of the Haitian population -- occurrences which seem too numerous, and their targets too indefensible as primarily poor first-time-voter Creole-speaking refugees, to be anything but systemic. In one example, a voter whose hands were bandaged could not press the touch-screen himself; he asked the nonpartisan election official to press "Kerry" for him, but the election official pressed "Bush" and sent his vote immediately into the machine. Many, many others were denied the right to vote and were not given provisional ballots, while others were refused assistance at the polls, even though provisional ballots and voter assistance are legal rights. Others were told they had already voted and were turned away, although they had never voted previously. This latter experience was a complaint not isolated to Haitians but also included other surprised voters with no recourse except their word against that of the Supervisor of Elections.

We spoke with hundreds of voters who were certain they had registered to vote in the past 6 months, well before the October 18 deadline, but were not on the rolls. And those were just the people who had the information to contact us.

The local paper, citing the Supervisor of Elections office as its source, told all people voting by absentee ballot that they could turn in ballots by hand to any of its seven offices by 5pm on Tuesday, November 2. Every single one of those offices except one was closed on Tuesday.

We had numerous calls from voters on November 2 whose precincts had closed, yet the Supervisor of Elections office had given voters no notification of the closure, and no notification of where to go to vote. Thousands of people were likely disenfranchised because of inexcusable mishaps such as this.

We had many calls from people who had been harassed by poll workers, who were turned away without being allowed the right to vote provisionally (another breech of voter rights). Other people were turned away because the address on their drivers license did not match the address on their voter registration card; again, this is in direct violation of election law.

All of these problems do not even take into account the 58,000 absentee ballots that had been "lost" by the Supervisor of Elections, in perhaps the most Democratic county in the state, disenfranchising thousands of people who were disabled, out of the country, or elderly and unable get to the polls. These events, and many others, have been documented and also reported to lawyers, but we fear they will not get the attention they deserve. This is what we witnessed in just one county. We believe that these "voting irregularities" raise serious concerns about the legitimacy of the results in Florida, and more broadly, about the health of democracy in this country.

Please circulate this widely.

Libby Anker libanker@berkeley.edu
Jill Greenlee jillgs@socrates.berkeley.edu
Rachel Van Sickle-Ward rvansick@berkeley.edu
Ryan Centner rcentner@berkeley.edu, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Sociology
University of California, Berkeley

Submitted to: Citizens For Legitimate Government, November 7, 2004

http://www.legitgov.org/

  

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