Saturday, July 10, 2004
Score one for the NY Times -- Florida felon voter list exposed
The NY Times has been to investigative reporting what Arnold Schwarzenegger was to professional acting — they both went through the motions and made a lot of money.
But not this time. They've actually investigated a Bush-controlled criminal enterprise—the Florida felon voter list—and found it wanting. Of Hispanic voters, that is.
Of course, credit where credit is due. None of this would have happened if CNN and other news organizations hadn't sued the State of Florida to permit a copy of the list to be issued and if Circuit Judge Nikki Ann Clark hadn't ruled in CNN's favor.
Circuit Judge Nikki Ann Clark said ... that the Florida Constitution "grants every person the fundamental right to inspect or copy public records." Further, the state had previously allowed the public and news media to inspect the list and not make copies, but Clark cited previous state court rulings that said the public's access was "valueless without the right to make copies."
Florida is one of a handful of states that excludes ex-felons from voting unless they jump through a number of hoops to have their voting rights restored. This year's list had 47,763 names on it. The state doesn't vet the list for accuracy, but mandates that the county registrars attempt it. (I have written on the list previously "In case you're worried about the November election" and mentioned it as one of the techniques the Republicans might use in an attempt to throw the election.)
So last week the list was revealed before God and everybody, and certain anomalies immediately began to appear. The Miami Herald got right on it and found that
at least 2,119 of those names ... shouldn't be on the list because their rights to vote were formally restored through the state's clemency process.
That's a potentially jarring flaw, critics say, in a state that turned the 2000 presidential election to Gov. Jeb Bush's brother George on the narrowest of margins -- 537 votes.
The state promptly admitted its error, but then asserted that those who were mistakenly on the list would have to re-register to vote because they had registered before receiving clemency. Last Wednesday they backed down.
The Florida Division of Elections has done an about-face and decided it will allow voting by almost 2,500 former felons whose restored voting rights had been threatened with revocation.
Secretary of State Glenda Hood backtracked on the issue Wednesday.
"It goes without saying that our guiding principle throughout this process will be to err on the side of the voter," Hood said in a statement.
It goes without saying that they have your ass in a sling, Glenda.
The next anomaly was the ratio of Democrats to Republicans. Turns out there were "28,025 Democrats and just 9,521 Republicans, with most of the rest unaffiliated."
That's a ratio of 3 Democrats for every Republican.
Now if they kept crime statistics for elected officeholders who had been convicted of felonies, I have no doubt that this ratio of Republicans to Democrats would be reversed. But since the state of Florida tries to keep as many blacks in jail as possible and 90% of blacks are Democrats, the number at first blush doesn't look all that implausible.
But then you get to the racial breakdown.
Among racial groups, the largest reported group was non-Hispanic whites with 24,197, followed by 22,084 non-Hispanic blacks, 1,384 unknowns, 61 Hispanics, 14 Asian or Pacific-Islanders, 12 American Indians and 11 others. The list consisted of 37,777 men and 9,986 women.
Sixty-one Hispanics? In a state that's 8% Hispanic? Even the NY Times couldn't miss it.
Florida election officials used a flawed method to come up with a listing of people believed to be convicted felons, a list that they are recommending be used to purge voter registration rolls, state officials acknowledged yesterday. As a result, voters identifying themselves as Hispanic are almost completely absent from that list.
And here's Glenda, through a spokesperson--
"This was absolutely unintentional," said Nicole de Lara, spokeswoman for the Florida secretary of state, Glenda E. Hood, an appointee of Gov. Jeb Bush, the president's brother. "The matching criteria were approved by several interested parties in the lawsuit, and the court. I don't know how it got by all those people without anyone noticing."
And the Democrat's response?
Democrats said yesterday that the latest disclosure should be the last straw. "Either this administration is acting incompetently in regard to voters' rights," said Scott Maddox, the Democratic state chairman, "or they have ill will toward a certain class of voters. Either way, it's unacceptable."Yes, sir.
"The honorable thing to do," Mr. Maddox added, "is throw the list out and not purge people erroneously on the eve of election."