Dimitri Devyatkin on Wed, 27 Feb 2002 04:40:01 +0100 (CET)

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[Nettime-bold] Harper's: How Florida Was Stolen

How the "felon" voter-purge was itself felonious
Harper's Magazine
Friday, March 1, 2002

by Greg Palast

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 protégées 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.

<data excerpt>
Source,Method,Date Run,Voter Cty,Voter ID #,"Voter Full Name","Voter
DOB","Voter Date Registered","Voter Gender","Voter Race","Felon
State","Felon County","Felon ID #","Felon ID Sequence","Felon Full
Name","Felon DOB",Felon Conviction,Felon Gender,Felon Race,,,
RUSSELL",9/17/59,9/6/91,M,WHI,IL,,N37638,,"BUTLER , DAVID ",9/17/59,,,,,,
DBT,NAM,200001,BRA,921691,"COOPER , THOMAS
ALVIN",9/5/73,7/31/92,M,WHI,OH,,A28981400,,"COOPER , THOMAS
G",10/3/31,9/12/85,M,BLA,FL,,15536,88,"DIXON , WILLIAM
",12/8/51,10/28/97,M,BLA,FL,PUT,982189,1,"JACKSON JR, JOHNNIE
",2/11/37,6/24/76,M,BLA,FL,HIL,28043,1,"MCDONALD , WALLACE
</data except>

Two of these "scrub lists," as officials called them, were distributed to
counties in the months before the election with orders to remove the voters
named. Together the lists comprised nearly 1 percent of Florida's electorate
and nearly 3 percent of its African-American voters. Most of the voters
(such as "David Butler," (1); a name that appears 77 times in Florida phone
books) were selected because their name, gender, birthdate and race
matched - or nearly matched - one of the tens of millions of ex-felons in
the United States. Neither DBT nor the state conducted any further research
to verify the matches. DBT, which frequently is hired by the F.B.I. to
conduct manhunts, originally proposed using address histories and financial
records to confirm the names, but the state declined the cross-checks. In
Harris's elections office files, next to DBT's sophisticated verification
plan, there is a hand-written note: "DON'T NEED."

Thomas Alvin Cooper (2), twenty-eight, was flagged because of a crime for
which he will be convicted in the year 2007. According to Florida's
elections division, this intrepid time-traveler will cover his tracks by
moving to Ohio, adding a middle name, and changing his race. Harper's found
325 names on the list with conviction dates in the future, a fact that did
not escape Department of Elections workers, who, in June 2000 emails headed,
"Future Conviction Dates," termed the discovery, "bad news." Rather than
release this whacky data to skeptical counties, Janet Mudrow, state liaison
to DBT, suggested that "blanks would be preferable in these cases."
(Harper's counted 4,917 blank conviction dates.) The one county that checked
each of the 694 names on its local list could verify only 34 as actual
felony convicts. Some counties defied Harris' directives; Madison County's
elections supervisor Linda Howell refused the purge list after she found her
own name on it.

Rev. Willie Dixon (3), seventy, was guilty of a crime in his youth; but one
phone call would have told the state that it had already pardoned Dixon and
restored his right to vote. On behalf of Dixon and other excluded voters,
the NAACP in January 2001 sued Florida and Harris, after finding that
African-Americans-who account for 13 percent of Florida's electorate and 46
percent of U.S. felony convictions -were four times as likely as whites to
be incorrectly singled out under the state's methodology. After the
election, Harris and her elections chief Clay Roberts, testified under oath
that verifying the lists was solely the work of county supervisors. But the
Florida-DBT contract (marked "Secret" and "Confidential") holds DBT
responsible for "manual verification using telephone calls." in fact, with
the state's blessing, DBT did not call a single felon. When I asked Roberts
about the contract during an interview for BBC television, Roberts ripped
off his microphone, ran into his office, locked the door, and called in
state troopers to remove us.

Johnny Jackson Jr. (4), thirty-two, has never been to Texas, and his mother
swears he never had the middle name "Fitzgerald." Neither is there evidence
that John Fitzgerald Jackson, felon of Texas, has ever left the Lone Star
State. But even if they were the same man, removing him from Florida's voter
rolls is an unconstitutional act. Texas is among the thirty five states
where ex-felons are permitted to vote, and the "full faith and credit"
clause of the U.S. Constitution forbids states to revoke any civil rights
that a citizen has been granted by another state; in fact, the Florida
Supreme Court had twice ordered the state not to do so, just nine months
before the voter purge. Nevertheless, at least 2,873 voters were wrongly
removed, a purge authorized by a September 18, 2000 letter to counties from
Governor Bush's clemency office. On February 23, 2001, days after the U.S.
Commission of Civil Rights began investigating the matters, Bush's office
issued a new letter allowing !
these persons to vote; no copies of the earlier letter could be found in the
clemency office or on its computers.

Wallace McDonald (5), sixty-four, lost his right to vote in 2000, though his
sole run-in with the law was a misdemeanor in 1959. (He fell asleep on a
bus-stop bench.) Of the "matches' on these lists, the civil-rights
commission estimated that at least 14 percent - or 8,000 voters, nearly 15
times Bush's official margin of victory - were false. DBT claims it warned
officials "a significant number of people who were not a felon would be
included on the list"; but the state, the company now says, "wanted there to
be more names than were actually verified." Last May, Florida's legislature
barred Harris from using outside firms to build the purge list and ordered
her to seek guidance from county elections officials. In defiance, Harris
has rebuffed the counties and hired another firm, just in time for Jeb
Bush's reelection fight this fall.


Click <a href=" http://www.gregpalast.com/detail.cfm?artid=122&row=1 here</a
to see the article.

Special thanks to Fredda Weinberg for cracking the Florida computer files
and crunching the numbers as well as to all the volunteer researchers who
contributed to this investigative effort.

Read the complete and latest material on the ethnic purge that fixed the
election in Palast's new book, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, out this
week from Pluto Press.

At http://www.GregPalast.com you can read and subscribe to Greg Palast's
London Observer columns and view his reports for BBC Television's Newsnight.

Chat online with Greg Palast Friday March 8, 2002 8 PM EST
Register at http://www.democrats.com to participate

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<a href="http://www.democrats.com";>http://www.democrats.com</a>

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