Stolen elections? You bet
November/December 2004

In the months leading up to the election, there was a pitched national battle over who would be allowed to vote. The Republican party, and Republican elections officials such as Glenda Hood in Florida and J. Kenneth Blackwell, Ohio's Secretary of State, worked overtime to cut down the rolls, reject registrations, and purge voters that they claimed were felons. Republican-hired canvassers collected registrations and their supervisors destroyed the Democratic ones, in a case under investigation. Employees of another Republican-paid firm posed as petitioners in Florida and changed students' voter registrations without their knowledge or consent.

Democracy is apparently so precious to these Republicans that they see the need to ration it.

Gone were the rosy invocations from government officials that everyone should vote. The closer the election got, the more bizarre and untenable Republican efforts became, and the thinner their reasoning.

Hood ordered new registrations rejected in Florida if they did not have a check box checked saying "I am a citizen" while an oath at the bottom says the same thing.

In Ohio, Hood's twin Blackwell, who also co-chaired the Bush re-election effort in that state, maintained that registrations could not be accepted if they were not on heavy cardstock. Elections offices around the state had been distributing registration forms on paper, and Ohioans had been filling them out. Finally, after outrage ensued, Blackwell withdrew his rule but many registrations were returned as invalid.

An 1895 Jim Crow law was resurrected in Florida to challenge voters. In Ohio, too, 35,000 voters in Ohio had their right to vote challenged before election day. An unknown number were challenged on election day in Florida. We know that the Republican party created lists of thousands of potential challengees.

Forged COINTELPRO type letters were sent out under the NAACP's letterhead in several communities, containing ominous misinformation, for example, telling people that if they voted and owed child support, or had outstanding parking tickets, they would be subject to arrest.

Forged letters were used in the FBIs infamous COINTELPRO programs to set African American leaders against each other in the 1960s and destroy the reputations of individuals and groups in the movement.

In the same way, these forged letters claiming to be written by the NAACP are designed to misinform potential voters and to harm the organization, which has worked to expand and defend the rights of Black Americans since 1919.

In addition to the forged letters, the NAACP has been under attack by the Bush administration, and its status as a non-profit is now being investigated.

Is this what the Republicans have to do in order to win? Stop people from voting? Threaten civil rights organizations? Forge documents? Intimidate people?

The deafening silence from the media make them accessories to these crimes, many of them violations of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which provides for penalties of up to 5 years in jail and $50,000 fines for one act of voter intimidation.

Is this the new standard for U.S. elections? Any Jim Crow-era law, any suppression by partisan election officials, any dirty tricks, any intimidation is now accepted as a normal part of our election procedures? Not only will the perpetrators not be punished, but when these thousand crimes result in the election of the perpetrators, the slim victory they grabbed will be hailed as a popular mandate?

After the election, because of these efforts to suppress and manipulate the vote, people started questioning the results. The exit polls seemed strange, in that they showed Kerry ahead in four key states at 4 p.m. on election day, but then Bush won them all. (Exit polls are used in international election observing because they so closely mirror the vote.)

We don't know if the exit polls were right, and the election was stolen. But that's the whole point.

If there were paper ballots in all the areas in question, we wouldn't need to use exit polls to try to determine if there was fraud, we could simply recount the ballots, which is what a consortium of Florida newspapers did after the 2000 election. (They found that Gore won the state.)

The criticism of those who are trying to analyze the exit poll data is in bad faith when it comes from those who pushed electronic voting machines with no paper ballot and secret software which can't be examined by the public because, the voting machine companies claim, it's a trade secret.

The massive (and very expensive) privatization of our election process means that we can have no faith that the results reflected how people-the ones who could jump through all the hoops-voted.

We know these results don't reflect the desires of all those who wanted to vote on election day. Standing in those long lines, getting challenged at the polls, receiving threatening rumors, being told to go from this polling place to that to the other, having our registrations rejected or destroyed, being mysteriously purged, we can also tell quite clearly who wants democracy and who wants to block it.

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