The 2000 Presidential Election was a watershed event. Not just because it pitted one Albert Gore, Sr., Democrat nominee and Vice President to outgoing President Bill Clinton, against one George Walker Bush, Jr., Republican nominee, son of former president George Herbert Walker Bush and then-governor of Texas, but because of the effect it would have on voting, politics and future elections. It also demonstrated the sheer desperation of one party to attain and preserve power at all costs.
As a "swing state" packing 25 (now 29) electoral votes, Florida remains one of the most contested battle grounds in the presidential election. It's literally one of those states that could "go either way," puns unintended. On that election night, Bush was trailing Gore by nine electoral votes, with 37 still up in the air. 25 of those belonged to Florida, 5 to New Mexico and 7 to Oregon. Whoever tallied the most votes in Florida was guaranteed to walk away with the entire presidential election sewn up. If that outcome was neck-and-neck between the two candidates, any sort of irregularity or outright fraud could tip the scales in the other candidate's favor, allowing him to take all 25 electoral votes.
The clusterfuck that ensued on election night was years in the making. In 1998, the state of Florida passed a law to combat voter fraud. The state also signed a $4 million contract with a private firm to create a master list of names to be purged from the voter registries, with the aim of removing duplicate registrations, deceased voters and felons who were legally prohibited from voting. Of course, the process itself turned out to be a complete clusterfuck -- many voters were incorrectly identified as felons. In a state that, at that point, had 31 percent of the black male population unable to vote due to criminal convictions, that was a big deal.
These purges most likely played a significant role in the then-Republican nominee's comfortable margin of approximately 100,000 votes, at least until the counts from Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach counties started pouring in. By the time Gore conceded to Bush, the Republican's vote margin dwindled to bare triple digits, prompting a recount by officials, Gore's retraction of his concession and a renewed effort by Florida Secretary of State and Bush campaign co-chair Katherine Harris to make sure those manually counted votes came out in Bush's favor. Between the reported electronic ballot fraud, butterfly ballots, hanging chads and stories of outright voter disenfranchisement, it took a Supreme Court decision to declare a winner. In a 5-4 decision, the court decided to grant Bush's request to halt the recount while the tally was still in favor of the Texas governor.
The state of Florida, like many of its fellow southern states, has a long and rich history of voter disenfranchisement, and it looks like it's going to happen again.
According to the Broward County Supervisor of Elections, eligible voters will be removed from the voting rolls as a result of the massive voter purge ordered by Governor Rick Scott. “It will happen,” Mary Cooney, a spokeswoman for the Broward County Supervisor of Elections, told ThinkProgress.
Late last year, Governor Scott ordered his Secretary of State, Kurt Browning to “to identify and remove non-U.S. citizens from the voter rolls.” Browning could not get access to reliable citizenship data. So Scott urged election officials to identify non-U.S. citizens by comparing data from the state motor vehicle administration with the voting file.
That process produced a massive list of 182,000 names, which Browning considered unreliable. The Fair Elections Legal Network, which is challenging the purge, noted that database matching is “notoriously unreliable” and “data entry errors, similar-sounding names, and changing information can all produce false matches.” Further, some voters may have naturalized since their driver’s license information was collected.
Deja vu all over again. The GOP has found that the best way to secure important elections is to stymie the voting and registration efforts of those most likely to vote Democrat: college students, blacks, Latinos and even elderly individuals with long-standing Dem allegiances. 91-year old Bill Internicola and Maureen Russo can both attest to the efforts being made by a largely conservative political structure. Imagine a natural American citizen who fought in the Battle of the Bulge and earned a Bronze Star for his troubles being told by his state that he's not American and therefore, can't vote.
Scott's shenanigans are well-known to the state of Florida. This is the same guy who decided to order mandatory annual drug testing for welfare recipients and state workers, at $35 a pop. He also hatched a plan to move low-income and elderly state residents into managed-care plans. Private healthcare provider Solantic stood to gain plenty from all three efforts. When the good governor's ownership of this company was revealed and his ethics questioned, he transferred ownership to his wife, Ann, described as a "a homemaker involved in various charitable organizations." In other words, not only is Ricky a creepy looking bastard, he's also an ethically bankrupt creep.
The U.S. Justice Department is stepping in by ordering a halt to all voter registration purge efforts. So far, all 67 of the state's election supervisors are complying as ordered. Too bad Ricky's being a bit hardheaded, not unlike a particular someone who was being equally hardheaded:
"The Florida Secretary of State is being recalcitrant," said Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of The Advancement Project, a Washington-based voting rights advocacy group that last month asked the Justice Department to investigate. "He wants to move forward despite federal notice of illegality and supervisors of elections' refusal to purge voters. He should just quit it."
Florida is among a small number states, mostly in the South, covered by Section V of the Voting Rights Act, a 1965 law that reinforces voting rights guaranteed in the Constitution. In five Florida counties and other states, election officials have a history of such of egregious and creative efforts to suppress black and Latino votes that any changes in voting–related policy or procedure must first be approved by the Justice Department or a panel of federal judges, Browne Dianis said.
Florida failed to get clearance for its purge or its methods to identify the people the state suspects are non-citizens.
My mother always told me a hard head leads to a soft behind. If Ricky decides to continue with voter purges in defiance of a federal order, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder should be ready to break out the switch/paddle/belt/Hot Wheels race track/that wooden spoon your mamma keeps hung up on the kitchen wall/etc. If the state of Florida is allowed to continue without any consequence, you can expect other states to follow suit. There's no way Holder can appear to look even the least bit weak on this, lest it set bad precedent and make the Justice Department look toothless when it comes to defending voters' civil rights.
One idea I had that would really drop a steaming load of shit into the state's corn flakes is taking away the majority of the state's electoral votes. I'm not familiar with how that would happen, but yanking 20 of Florida's 29 votes would not only make the state's efforts in rigging the election for a GOP win moot, it would also send one hell of a message -- that you can't get away with this shit without suffering dire consequences. This is one area where I want to see President Obama walk on stage with his big-boy pants on.
With a milquetoast nominee on board and scores of crazy "true believers" at the helm, voter disenfranchisement is practically the only card left in the GOP's reelection deck. Well, that and scores of emoprogs who are really, really fed up with the president not being the Magic Negro™ they expected him to be. Rigging the vote is practically the only way that a guy like Mitt Romney can sail through the elections and into the presidency. Oddly enough, this isn't being talked about much on the mainstream media. Something about zombies taking over and eating faces instead of brains.
Left to their own devices, the GOP would very much like to rig democratic elections in their favor and if possible relegate the Democrats to a rump party that's about as effective at getting the vote out as those Socialists and Americans Elect guys. The natural inclination of the GOP is towards one-party rule.
He who controls the ballot box controls the election. Don't forget that. And don't count on the Supreme Court to straighten this mess out at the last minute. We've already seen how that worked out before.