08/26/2004: Of course, the fact that we don't seem to learn from experience...
bothers me, but the thing that really bothers me about this article is the possibility that, assuming that George W. Bush is elected this November, then Jeb will figure that 2008 is his turn to occupy the Oval Office. Do we really need to inflict his corruption on the nation, too?
One indicator of the dire state of electoral affairs in Florida is the fact that Theresa LePore, the election supervisor who designed the infamous butterfly ballot, will once again be on the job. It was Ms. LePore's ballot that awarded the votes of thousands of elderly Jews in Palm Beach County to Pat Buchanan, arguably costing Al Gore the election. Given the multitude of other failures in the state's voting system, that's the good news.
In the wake of the most scandalous election in U.S. history, which led to an unprecedented 36-day recount, most Americans believed that state and federal authorities would take steps to ensure that the country would never again go through such an ordeal. But in truth very few changes have been made, and those that have been implemented have raised new concerns. Yet nearly all of Flordia's current troubles share a common denominator—they were decisions made or endorsed by Florida's secretary of state and chief elections officer, Glenda Hood, who was handpicked by Gov. Jeb Bush in November 2002.
There are excellent reasons for this recommendation. Following the contentious 2000 recount, e-mails on former Sec. of State Katherine Harris' computer revealed that she had been in contact with Jeb Bush during the recount, contrary to both their claims. Miami Herald reporter Meg Laughlin discovered that e-mail messages sent to Jeb Bush from Harris had been deleted after the recount. Harris then had the operating system of her computer changed, a procedure that erased all its data. "What was odd about what she did," said Mark Seibel, an editor at the Herald, "was that they installed an old operating system—not a new one—which makes you wonder why they did it."
According to Gallup polls taken yearly since 2000, roughly 50 percent of Americans believe that the election of George W. Bush was either "won on a technicality" or "stolen." Only 34 percent are "very confident" that the vote will be counted accurately in November.
But rather than allay those doubts by selecting an election supervisor of unimpeachable integrity, Gov. Bush seems to have found an equal to Katherine Harris in Glenda Hood, the former Republican mayor of Orlando. True, Hood is not juggling Harris' other job—state chairman for George W. Bush's campaign—but she has done little to assure Floridians that all the votes will be counted this time around.
For one, Hood and Jeb Bush have strongly endorsed the state's Republican-controlled legislature's new rule that outlaws manual recounts. This means that if any of the new optical-scan or touch-screen machines fail—as they did in the 2002 elections; and the recent March primaries; and just last week, when a backup system failed in a test run in Miami-Dade—there will be no recourse for counting votes. A coalition of election-reform groups has challenged this rule, and Rep. Robert Wexler of Palm Beach sued in federal court after a state appeals court dismissed the matter, ruling that while the right to vote is guaranteed, a perfect voting system is not.
Unlike the recent elections in Venezuela, where the new touch-screen voting machine provided every voter with a receipt, Floridians will have to take the word of Hood and Bush that their vote was counted.
To the embarrassment of Hood and Jeb Bush, even the state's Republican Party has voiced its doubts about the electronic voting system. A flier disseminated last month by the party, featuring a picture of a smiling President Bush striking a thumbs-up sign, urged Republicans living in Miami-Dade County to vote by absentee ballot even if they will be home on Election Day. "Make sure your vote counts," read the flier. "Order your absentee ballot today.'' Now many Democrats also believe that the only safe vote is an absentee ballot vote.
But it is in the "low-tech area" of absentee ballots, as Miami Herald columnist Jim DeFede puts it, "that things get really funky." Most critically, Hood and Gov. Bush have championed a new state law that abolishes Florida's longtime requirement that absentee ballots be witnessed. While some other states, like California, do not require witnesses, no state has Florida's history of institutional vote fraud.
About the only thing that could restore confidence in Florida electoral procedures would be Hood's immediate resignation; her successor should then be chosen by a bipartisan commission. And as Gov. Bush cannot possibly be an impartial observer in his brother's quest for another term, he should recuse himself from every aspect involving the vote count in Florida. He also needs to flex his power with his famously compliant Legislature to repeal the new laws eliminating manual recounts and witnessed absentee ballots. In addition, all felons who have repaid their debt to society, following completion of their sentences, should have their voting rights restored.
If these changes are not made, Florida cannot conduct a credible election come November.
Len on 08.26.04 @ 07:04 AM CST