Block the Vote – By Paul Krugman

Greg Palast

The case of Florida’s felon list – used by state officials, as in 2000, to try to wrongly disenfranchise thousands of blacks – has been widely reported. Less widely reported has been overwhelming evidence that the errors were deliberate.

In an article coming next week in Harper’s, Greg Palast, who originally reported the story of the 2000 felon list, reveals that few of those wrongly purged from the voting rolls in 2000 are back on the voter lists. State officials have imposed Kafkaesque hurdles for voters trying to get back on the rolls. Depending on the county, those attempting to get their votes back have been required to seek clemency for crimes committed by others, or to go through quasi-judicial proceedings to prove that they are not felons with similar names.

And officials appear to be doing their best to make voting difficult for those blacks who do manage to register. Florida law requires local election officials to provide polling places where voters can cast early ballots. Duval County is providing only one such location, when other counties with similar voting populations are providing multiple sites. And in Duval and other counties the early voting sites are miles away from precincts with black majorities.

Next week, I’ll address the question of whether the votes of Floridians with the wrong color skin will be fully counted if they are cast. Mr. Palast notes that in the 2000 election, almost 180,000 Florida votes were rejected because they were either blank or contained overvotes. Demographers from the U.S. Civil Rights Commission estimate that 54 percent of the spoiled ballots were cast by blacks. And there’s strong evidence that this spoilage didn’t reflect voters’ incompetence: it was caused mainly by defective voting machines and may also reflect deliberate vote-tampering.

The important point to realize is that these abuses aren’t aberrations. They’re the inevitable result of a Republican Party culture in which dirty tricks that distort the vote are rewarded, not punished. It’s a culture that will persist until voters – whose will still does count, if expressed strongly enough – hold that party accountable.

For more information on the Harper’s Magazine and BBC Television investigations, contact: contact (at) GregPalast.com and visit www.GregPalast.com