Thursday, June 10, 2004

The Fire Next Time 

Florida Today ran an editorial yesterday. They called it "Defending the Ballot" which is a noble title.

I'm not feeling noble. Nobility is what cost us the theft of Florida last time, failing to protest the purge of voter lists ahead of time, failing to defend the recount, backing down in the face of goons and thugs and mob violence. We knew something crooked was going on, but we let our voices be drowned out by cries of "Let the process work."

Well, drowned was what we got all right, and now we're floating around in this world that none of us would have recognized in that November of 2000. And they're setting up to do it again

There's a line, I suppose it's from an old song. James Baldwin used it to express some of his own rage, but I don't imagine he'd mind if I used it too:

And God gave Noah the rainbow sign:
No more water, but the fire next time

I'm posting nearly the whole thing, but I would encourage readers to click through the link anyway, for one reason: at the bottom of the page is a nice, easy "Comment on this story" link. Go there. Comment. Commend them.

Encourage good behavior, as we say. Let them know that far beyond the shores of Cocoa Beach, thousands of people are watching and remembering and cheering them on.

Defending the ballot

Hiding voter information undermines confidence in the democratic system

Florida and the nation must not endure another presidential election disaster.

With five months to go before the Nov. 2 vote, time is running out to restore trust in the ballot and the confidence of the public in the democratic process.

That's why Gannett newspapers in Florida, including FLORIDA TODAY, are joining CNN, other news organizations, the Tallahassee-based First Amendment Foundation and Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Tallahassee, in a suit seeking public access to state voter lists.

Set for a hearing today, the suit asks a Leon County circuit judge to throw out a 2001 law passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature that shuts off public access to lists of voters.

Even more critical, the law refuses public access to a list of those the state says are felons to be removed from the rolls.

Mistakes on the list mean qualified voters would be rejected at the polling place, with no defense against being refused their most basic rights as citizens.
Think it's not a problem?

Before the 2000 election, a private company hired by the state named thousands of people felons, purging them from voter rolls.

Later reviews showed more than 1,000 voters were wrongly purged. George W. Bush won by 537 votes.

In Florida, which has a long record of open government under the Sunshine Laws, keeping voting lists virtually secret is absolutely unacceptable.

Even worse, this wrongheaded law does the opposite of what a democracy should do, which is accommodate -- not frustrate -- every possible oversight of voting procedure...

So far, 47,000 voter names are set to be purged, as gathered by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. And already, a review in Leon County shows problems with 10 percent of the records.

Secretary of State Glenda Hood claims allowing public access to voters lists would be "an invasion of privacy."

Tell that to the candidates who bombard voters with campaign mailings matched to voters' parties, neighborhoods, voting records, use of absentee ballots and other information available through databases.

Hiding lists only undermines voter confidence, and Nelson is right when he says the public must have access, "to check and doublecheck" that the lists are not wrongly slamming the door on qualified voters.

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