BBC report Sparks Florida Vote Storm


2004-10-31

Richard Moore

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Date: Fri, 29 Oct 2004 00:32:38 -0400
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Subject: The Washington Times - BBC report Sparks Florida Vote Storm
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BBC report sparks Florida vote storm

By Martin Sieff
UPI Senior News Analyst

Washington, DC, Oct. 27 (UPI) -- A British Broadcasting
Corporation report has unleashed a political storm over
suggestions that the Bush campaign in Florida may be planning
to disrupt voting in the state's black neighborhoods.

Democrats have expressed outrage over the BBC report, while
Republicans are heatedly challenging its accuracy.

BBC's prestigious "Newsnight" regular news program reported
Tuesday that two e-mail messages prepared for the executive
director of the Bush campaign in Florida contained a so-called
caging list with the names and addresses of 1,886 voters in
predominantly black and traditionally Democrat areas of
Jacksonville.

The report then noted that Florida law allows political party
operatives inside polling stations to stop voters from
obtaining a ballot. Then, they can only vote "provisionally"
after signing an affidavit attesting to their legal voting
status. Yet U.S. federal law, the BBC's Greg Palast noted,
prohibits targeting any challenges to voters -- even if there
is a basis for the challenge -- if race is a factor in
targeting the voters.

Republican state campaign spokeswoman Mindy Tucker Fletcher
confirmed to the BBC that GOP poll workers in Florida would be
instructed to challenge voters "where it's stated in the law."
But at the time she refused to deny the possibility that the
"caging list" would be used to create a challenge list for
black voters from overwhelmingly Democratic districts. Later,
she offered another explanation for it.

An elections supervisor in Tallahassee shown the "caging list"
by a BBC reporter responded, "The only possible reason why
they would keep such a thing is to challenge voters on
Election Day."

The existence of the list came to light when it was sent to
the executive director of the Bush campaign in Florida and to
the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign's national research director in
Washington.

In a later response e-mailed to the BBC, Tucker Fletcher
offered a new explanation that she had not given the BBC when
first questioned about it. She said the list had been created
to try and reach out to new registrants for the election.

"The Duval County list was created to collect the returned
mail information from the Republican National Committee
mailing and was intended and has been used for no purpose
other that," Tucker Fletcher wrote to BBC Newsnight editor
Peter Barron Tuesday.

"Palast's insinuation that it was created for and will be used
for the purposes of an Election Day challenge is erroneous and
frankly illustrates his willingness to twist information to
suit his and others' political agendas," she continued.
"Reporting of these types of baseless allegations by the news
media comes directly from the Democrats election playbook."

However, the controversy around the Jacksonville list is far
from the only allegation of attempts by GOP campaign officials
to suppress or discourage African-American voter turnout.

In Ohio, where around 400,000 new voters in generally
Democratic areas have been added to the polls this year,
Republicans have deployed a high proportion of their 3,600
polling monitors in predominantly black areas such as
inner-city Cleveland.

And BBC Newsnight also reported that it filmed a private
detective who was filming early voters in a predominantly
black neighborhood.

Democratic Congresswoman Corrine Brown told the BBC she
believed that surveillance operation was part of a widespread
pattern of intimidation to scare off African-Americans who are
expected to overwhelmingly vote for Democratic presidential
nominee John Kerry by a margin of at least 80 percent to 20
percent for President George W. Bush.

The "caging list" row is not the only looming voting
controversy roiling the waters in Florida. Some 58,000 ballots
for absentee voters in Broward County have so far not been
delivered to the voters who had applied for them.

Gisela Salas, Broward County's deputy supervisor of elections,
told News 10 television in Florida, "Some of those ballots are
actually starting to arrive at their destinations." But then
she added, "It really is an extraordinary delay in the mail
service. ... What really happened to them is still in
question."

Diane Glasser, vice chairwoman of the Florida Democratic
Party, had no hesitation in putting her own interpretation on
the snafu. "It looks like they're trying to steal the vote
again," she said.

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Date: Sun, 31 Oct 2004 02:56:04 -0500
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Subject: London Observer:  Florida exposed - 
              Darkness at noon in the Sunshine State
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The Observer, London
Sunday, October 31, 2004

Voters claim abuse of electoral rolls
Students say they were conned into registering twice
Greg Palast in New York
Sunday October 31, 2004

An Observer investigation in the United States has uncovered
widespread allegations of electoral abuse, many of them going
uninvestigated despite complaints of what would appear to be
criminal attempts to manipulate voter lists.

The allegations, which come just two days before Americans go
to the polls in one of the most tightly contested elections in
a generation, threaten to plunge Tuesday's count into a legal
minefield and overshadow even the elections of 2000.

The claims come as both Republicans and Democrats put in place
up to 2,000 lawyers across the country to challenge attempts
to manipulate the vote in swing states.

Although allegations of misconduct have been levelled at both
parties recently, the majority of complaints that have been
identified in The Observer' s investigation involved claims
against local Republicans.

The claims, made by the BBC's Newsnight, follow alleged
attempts by Republicans to illegally suppress the votes in key
states. Republican spokesmen deny these allegations.

[Watch the BBC broadcast at
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/newsnight/3956129.stm ]

One of the more serious claims is that no action has been
taken in a complex fraud, where more than 4,000 Florida
students were allegedly conned into signing a form which could
lead them to be doubly registered and void their votes. The
Florida Law Enforcement Department has told the complainants
that it is too busy to investigate.

In Colorado too, Democrats are complaining about an attempt to
remove up to 6,000 convicted felons from the electoral roll,
at the behest of the state's Republican secretary of state,
Donetta Davidson, despite a US federal law that prohibits
eliminating a voter's rights within 90 days of an election to
give time for the voter to protest.

The attempt to purge the list of alleged felons would appear
to be a re-run of the attempt by Florida Governor Jeb Bush's
secretary of state to remove 93,000 citizens from voter rolls
as felon convicts are not allowed to vote.

Investigations appear to have established that only 3 per cent
of the largely African-American list were illegal voters.

That action led to a vote in July by the US Civil Rights
Commission to open a criminal and civil investigation of the
Jeb Bush administration's purge of voters, including
indications of concealing evidence subpoenaed by the
commission's investigators. The new claims follow the
Newsnight revelation last week of confidential documents from
inside Republican headquarters in Florida and Washington which
the programme claimed suggested a plan - possibly in violation
of US law - to stop thousands of African-Americans from voting
on election day.

The programme produced two leaked emails, prepared for the
executive director of the Bush campaign in Florida and the
campaign's national research director in Washington DC,
containing a 15-page list. The list contains 1,886 names and
addresses of voters in predominantly black and traditionally
Democratic areas of Jacksonville, Florida.

An elections supervisor in Tallahassee, when shown the list,
told Newsnight: 'The only possible reason why they would keep
such a thing is to challenge voters on election day.'

Ion Sancho, not affiliated with any party, noted that Florida
law allows political party operatives inside polling stations
to stop voters from obtaining a ballot. They may then only
vote 'provisionally' after signing an affidavit attesting to
their legal voting status.

Mass challenges have never occurred in Florida. Indeed, says
Mr Sancho, not one challenge has been made to a voter 'in the
16 years I've been supervisor of elections. Quite frankly,
this process can be used to slow down the voting process and
cause chaos on election day and discourage voters from
voting.'

Sancho calls it intimidation. And it may be illegal. In
Washington, well-known civil rights attorney Ralph Neas noted
that US federal law prohibits the targeting voters, even if
there is a basis for the challenge, if race is a factor in
targeting the voters.

The list of Jacksonville voters covers an area with a majority
of black residents.

When asked by Newsnight for an explanation of the list,
Republican spokespeople claimed that the list merely records
returned mail from either fundraising solicitations or newly
registered voters to verify addresses for purposes of campaign
literature.

Republican state campaign spokeswoman, Mindy Tucker Fletcher,
stated the list was not put together 'in order to create' a
challenge list, but refused to say it would not be used in
that manner.

The Observer has found that many people are soldiers sent
overseas. Republicans acknowledge the list was created by
compiling lists of voters whose addresses have changed whose
only use, say critics, would be to challenge voters on
election day on the basis that their voting address is not
valid. But this 'caging' method captures those whose addresses
have changed because they have been sent to Iraq or other
places. The list includes homeless shelter residents, casting
doubt on suggestions the list was created from fundraising
solicitations for the Bush-Cheney campaign.


-------------
View Greg Palast's BBC Television film, "Bush Family
Fortunes," available this week on DVD in an updated edition
from The Disinformation Company at
http://www.gregpalast.com/bff-dvd.htm

To receive Greg?s investigative reports click here:
http://www.gregpalast.com/contact.cfm

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uselections2004/story/0,13918,1340190,00.html

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004
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Richard Moore (rkm)
Wexford, Ireland

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