Disclosures by Orlando Sentinel


Bush Forces Stuffed Florida Ballot Boxes

by José Pérez


This is an edited version of an item posted on the Internet May 10, with the following prefatory comments by the author:

[This is a post I sent to Louis Proyect’s Marxism List. I’m also forwarding it to Cuba News, and to people I send comments on Cuba to from time to time. This is relevant to Cuba for a couple of reasons. The U.S. is always criticizing Cuba for its alleged lack of elections. Adherence to “representative democracy” is being made a condition for admission to the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), which the U.S. is trying to set up. It’s instructive to have a closer look at one aspect of the U.S. “model” of representative democracy at work, in its most sacred sacrament, the ballot cast by the voter.

[I’m also forwarding this to some of my friends who share a background in the U.S. Socialist Workers Party. As many of you know, the SWP (under its current leadership) took the position, which it has stressed several times since, that it was the Democrats (!) who tried to “steal” the elections in Florida by demanding that more of the votes actually cast be counted.]

Readers are urged to see José Pérez’s earlier three-part article about the November 2000 elections. See the section of the Labor Standard web site entitled “Discussion of the 2000 Elections and Their After-Math.” José Pérez’s articles in that section are entitled “Lessons of Florida,” Parts 1 and 2, and “The Real Double Standard.”  

In the last-named article, José Pérez rightly concludes:  “Fortunately, there are other ways for working people to express and defend their own interests [other than supporting candidates of the bosses’ parties]—above all, by creating our own political party, beholden not to the rich, but to our own organizations and communities.”

 *  *  *

The Orlando Sentinel newspaper is continuing to document irregularities in the Florida elections. 

The scope and extent of the irregularities are such that it is impossible to draw the conclusion that George W. Bush, who was, in effect, eventually designated President by a 5-4 Supreme Court majority, was merely the beneficiary of a series of coincidental decisions and mistakes by (mostly Republican) county election officials.

The most recent revelations concern the “duplication” of at least 10,000 absentee ballots in a whole series of counties. These ballots proved unreadable by optical scanning machines, so, in what the Sentinel calls “one of the best-kept secrets” of the Florida presidential elections, officials created new ballots, supposedly marked just like the absentee voters intended to mark them, to take the place of the ballots that had actually been cast.

This, by the way, is perfectly LEGAL in Florida, which makes one wonder why they bother the population with voting at all, instead of having the election boards handle the whole noisome business.

That this remained secret until now is astounding. Precisely the issue at the heart of George W. Bush’s legal challenge to counting all the votes in Florida was that county election workers and canvassing boards could not be trusted to interpret the intent of the voters, given the lack of clear standards, and therefore only machine-readable votes should count.

But, as it turns out, massive amounts of interpreting had already taken place, to the advantage—thank God for coincidence!—of George Bush II. How do we know it was to Bush’s advantage? Because absentee voters favored Bush over Gore two to one. Or rather, I should say, ballots attributed to absentee voters favored Bush two-to-one. What the voters themselves thought we’ll never know.

It is especially astounding because, supposedly, every three-member county election board has to include at least one member from each of the two major parties. But the reality is that rich, white Southern Democrats are virtually indistinguishable from Republicans.

The Butterfly Ballot Designer

A case in point is Theresa LaPore, if I remember her name right, the Palm Beach County election supervisor who designed the infamous butterfly ballot. Ms. LaPore has now “come out.” No, she’s not gay. It turns out she was a lifelong Republican who became a Democrat of convenience so she could succeed her boss as election supervisor. Now that the election is over, and her chances of reelection are zero, she’s officially reregistered herself as an “independent.”

Even though a central Bush claim—that it was unfair to have humans (rather than machines) interpreting ballots—was at the top of the news for weeks as the battle over the elections unfolded, NONE of the supposed “Democrat” election canvassing board members in the counties where these shenanigans took place bothered to inform “their” party or candidate that hundreds or thousands of ballots had been removed and replaced with freshly marked ones on election night.

What this shows is that the stealing of the Florida elections was a much more thoroughly organized and systematic effort than previously supposed. And since such duplication procedures were casually carried out by election workers, in absolute secrecy, does anyone doubt that there was plenty of motive, method, and opportunity to not just “duplicate” poorly marked ballots, but “correct” them also?

If nothing else, consider the timing: this was done on election night, after the initial pass of ballots through scanning machines, as the Bush camp was hotly contesting the projection of Gore as the winner in Florida, saying that the projection did not correctly take into account—the absentee ballots! And it was done as the Gore call was retracted, and as the final preliminary tallies indicated the two candidates were neck and neck. And it was done by people who, despite weeks of massive saturation-bombing media coverage of the Florida balloting, decided to keep silent about the fact that countless ballots freshly marked by election workers were fed into the counting machines as the whole world waited to know the outcome of the election battle.

More Details

In the weeks following Election Day 2000, the major news media invested uncountable, unconscionable amounts of time and human resources to “covering” the ballot dispute in Florida. Not a single one got close enough to the events where they really happened—in the counting rooms at local precincts and county election boards—to get even a whiff of this story.

And one more detail. I got wind of this Orlando Sentinel story thanks to a series of items that one of the top news-gathering executives at one of the top news organizations makes available, a sort of list-serv for “inside dope” about the news biz, although the form of it is different. Despite that, neither this executive’s news organization nor any of the other large news organizations similar to this one, which undoubtedly got wind of this story, have given it any coverage.

So much for the “free press” as the watchdog of a “free society.”

PS: Here’s a taste of the Orlando Sentinel’s coverage:

Mangled ballots resurrected

David Damron and Roger Roy

SENTINEL STAFF WRITERS

Posted May 7, 2001

 

A shredded ballot. (ROBERTO GONZALEZ/ORLANDO SENTINEL)

May 7, 2001

 

A puzzling endeavor. (ROBERTO GONZALEZ/ORLANDO SENTINEL)

May 7, 2001

About this report:

This is one in an ongoing series examining problems in Florida’s historic 2000 presidential election as well as efforts to reform the voting system. The Sentinel is also participating in a consortium of news-media organizations that is systematically reviewing the 180,000 ballots cast but not counted in that election. That project is still under way.

FLORIDA’S FLAWED ELECTION

PENSACOLA—One of the best-kept secrets in Florida’s disputed 2000 presidential election is that thousands of ballots that ultimately counted were never even filled out by voters.

With no outside scrutiny, county officials on Election Day made new copies of at least 10,000 mismarked or torn absentee ballots that the counting machines initially couldn’t read. More than 2,400 absentee ballots were duplicated in Escambia County alone—about 11 percent of all absentee votes cast in that county.

Among the 10,000 ballots duplicated statewide were untold numbers of ballots that machines couldn’t read but that election officials said showed “clear intent” in the presidential race or other contests. By duplicating those ballots to make them machine-readable, officials saved many from being thrown out in a presidential race decided by just 537 votes.

This is the URL to that story.

But I would also urge those interested in the Sentinel’s detailed coverage of just HOW the Florida presidential elections were stolen to go to this URL, and read through all the stories there.

You will have to make an effort to UNDERSTAND just what happened. This is all straight “just-the-facts” journalism. But it is well worth the effort.

PPS: I leave out the obvious POLITICAL conclusions about the absolute futility of trying to carry out social change through support to the candidates of a two-party system capable of carrying out such fraud.

 PPPS: Don’t forget the big picture: despite all the Supreme Court prohibitions against counting votes, the “duplication” of votes, etc., remember, “President” George W. Bush is the one who LOST by half a million votes in November.