Election 2000 lawsuit misses mark
by C. Stone Brown
Seventeen months after George W. Bush entered the presidency in a
cloud of controversy, the Justice Department finally has filed a civil
lawsuit against three Florida counties. But the long-awaited lawsuit
only exacerbates the election dispute.
The lawsuit doesn’t address one of the biggest complaints by Florida
voters: illegal purging of names from the registered-voter rolls.
Instead, the Justice Department is citing three Florida counties for
failure to provide adequate language assistance to Haitian- Creole and
Ralph F. Boyd, assistant attorney general for civil rights, told the
Senate Judiciary Committee that there were ‘’very few voters who
actually were prevented from voting.’’ But that doesn’t square with the
numbers of complaints filed by Floridians. For instance, the Justice
Department logged 11,000 complaints from mostly Black voters yet
determined that only 14 warranted an investigation. The NAACP is
claiming hundreds, perhaps thousands, were denied the right to cast
their ballot in Florida.
The NAACP has filed a class-action lawsuit naming as defendants
various Florida officials, including the president’s brother, Gov. Jeb
Bush, Republican Secretary of State Katherine Harris and DBT Online (now
ChoicePoint), a company with close Republican Party ties that Harris
hired to "scrub’’ felons from the voter rolls. The lawsuit claims that
Florida officials violated the rights of Black citizens by using an
outdated punch-card voting system in precincts with high Black
populations, failing to correctly process voter-registration
applications and purging eligible voters from voter rolls.
The purging of eligible voters seems to be where most of the fraud
took place in Florida. For example, in a study by the Palm Beach Post,
at least 1,100 eligible voters, incorrectly listed as felons, were
prevented from casting their ballots. However, 1,100 votes seem trivial
compared to findings of a recently released book.
Bush’s official 537-vote victory would have been swallowed by the
57,700 names of mostly Blacks who were ‘’scrubbed’’ from the Florida
voter rolls five months before the election, according to "The Best
Democracy Money Can Buy" by investigative journalist Greg Palast. This
undoubtedly favored Bush, because Al Gore won 93 percent of Florida’s
According to Palast, Florida election officials used flawed lists,
provided by DBT Online, that led to numerous errors, such as duplicate
names, with no cross-referencing of addresses that would have correctly
identified the person. There also were names on the felon list such as
Johnny Jackson, an eligible Florida voter, flagged because his name
somehow ended up on a list of Texas felons, though he had never been to
Texas. Also, Thomas Alvin Cooper was flagged because of a conviction in
the year 2007.
There were thousands of names of real felons living in Florida who
had the right to vote in Florida during the 2000 presidential election
because they were convicted and sentenced in other states that allow
felons to vote. Florida is one of eight states that bar felons from
voting. Florida now admits that these people had the right to vote in
the presidential election, according to Palast.
If a court determines that Blacks were intentionally denied the right
to vote, it wouldn’t come as a shock. Since 1865, Blacks have been faced
with one scheme after another to dilute their vote, including poll
taxes, literacy tests and vouchers of "good character.’’ This is the
reason we have a Voting Rights Act.
It is disheartening for a nation to proclaim itself the leader of
democracy and yet have thousands of its citizens enter the 21st century
denied the same rights they were denied 300 years ago. If justice
doesn’t come from our "Justice’’ Department, it may have to come from
(Freelance writer C. Stone Brown can be reached at [email protected])