...as in the imperative (i.e. you, youth, progress). This blog is updated by politically active young people. Issues that will be discussed are those which concern young voters and are of concern to young voters.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Jim Crow 2.0


One of my missions here at Progress, Youth to increase young voter turnout for the Democratic Party. But a serious question lurks: Is it worth it? I am not referring to this blog's viewership (which is steadily climbing, thank you) or the effectiveness of blogs in increasing voter participation (which research suggests is not very effective at all, but hey), I am asking, "How representational is our so-called representational Democracy?" Some outstanding investigative journalism by BBC reporter Greg Palast suggests that it may not be that representational at all.

2000 Black Voter Purge:

In 2000, Florida was a hotbed of political scandal. While the media focused on hanging chads, recounts, and the US Supreme Court, and later the Diebold Voting Machines Scandal, Palast was investigating far more sinister ongoings. Palast's website reports:
In the two years before the elections, the Florida secretary of state’s office quietly ordered the removal of 94,000 voters from the registries. Supposedly, these were convicted felons who may not vote in Florida. Instead, the overwhelming majority were innocent of any crime, and just over half were black or Hispanic.
The Florida Secretary of State's Office was ironically assisted by the Voting Rights Act, which requires that the race of the voter be listed next to his or her name. Then, those "who's name, birthdate, and gender loosely matched that of a felon anywhere in America were targeted for removal." Palast points out the absurd examples of Floridas many African-Americans named Thomas Butler:
One Thomas Butler (of several in Florida) was tagged because a “Thomas Butler Cooper Jr.” of Ohio was convicted of a crime... [reportedly committed] on 1/30/2007.
How was this able to happen legally? Florida was the first state to have a computerized voting roll, one which allowed for the systematic removal of black voters when placed in the hands of elected, therefore inherently partisan, politicians. African-Americans were an easy target, as the vast majority vote Democratic, and in 2004, they were targeted again.

Caging List:

In October of 2004, two e-mails sent by a GOP official and intended for "the executive director of the Bush campaign in Florida and the campaign's national research director" were intercepted by the political satire site WhiteHouse.org, which turned the e-mails over to Palast. The e-mails contained a 15-page list of Florida voters, 98% of which were black, labeled "Caging List." Palast claims he sent a reply e-mail inquiring about the list, to which the GOP responded that it was a donor registry. This was an obvious farce, and Palast promptly raised concerns on a BBC Newsnight piece entitled "New Florida Vote Scandal Feared" on October 24. Palast speculated that the so-called "Caging List" was a list of potential voters that Republican activists would challenge at the polls, which is allowed under Florida law. Such a mass challenge had never been attempted in state, or even national history, but the Republicans were aided by the computerized voting rolls. Later, Palast's speculation would be revealed as fact, though the mainstream media, ever oblivious, did not question the validity of the 2004 Florida elections.

Black Voter Intimidation:

Palast interviewed Tallahassee voter supervisor, Ion Sancho, for his BBC piece:

An elections supervisor in Tallahassee [Sancho], when shown the list, told Newsnight: "The only possible reason why they would keep such a thing is to challenge voters on election day."

Ion Sancho, a Democrat, noted that Florida law allows political party operatives inside polling stations to stop voters from obtaining a ballot.

Mass challenges have never occurred in Florida. Indeed, says Mr Sancho, not one challenge has been made to a voter "in the 16 years I've been supervisor of elections."

"Quite frankly, this process can be used to slow down the voting process and cause chaos on election day; and discourage voters from voting."

Sancho calls it "intimidation." And it may be illegal.
In fact, it is illegal. Palast writes that civil rights attorney Ralph Neas noted that "US federal law prohibits targeting challenges to voters, even if there is a basis for the challenge, if race is a factor in targeting the voters."

But Palast notes that Republicans did not stop at Jim Crow era-like challenges to African-American's right to vote, they hired a private detective for the sole purpose of intimidating black voters. On election day, BBC "filmed a private detective filming every "early voter" - the majority of whom are black - from behind a vehicle with blacked-out windows."

"The private detective claimed not to know who was paying for his all-day services."

"Help America Vote Act:"

In 2002, congress passed a GOP initiative called the "Help America Vote Act," which will allow, indeed mandate, the Florida-style computerized voting rolls in all 50 states. This will allow the most significant denial of voting rights to minority voters since the time before the Voting Rights Act by allowing the similar voter purges in all 50 states. The deadline for the last step of the bill is January 1, 2007, but most of the bill went into effect before the 2004 presidential election, no doubt interfering with the representation of minority votes in that election.

The last two elections were hoaxes. It's mis-representational democracy, it's Jim Crow 2.0.

More Information:

Jim Crow Revived in Cyberspace - Greg Palast and Martin Luther King, III (via GregPalast.com)

New Florida Vote Scandal Feared
- Greg Palast (via BBC Newsnight)

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