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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Florida Determined to Deny Black Voters Access--Again

Practicing for the upcoming November elections? "Accidental" incompetence? Intentional disenfranchisement? Forced choice in order to manipulate electronic tallies?

Any way you slice it, it doesn't say much for the people in control of elections in both the state of Florida and Duval County that the polling places in the 'Westside' and Northwest Jacksonville (primarily African-American neighborhoods) were severely shorted when it came to the supply of Democratic ballots. But, hey, they had a major surplus of Republican ballots.

OR (democratic-only) ballot-deprived voters could take a major chance and vote at one of the DIEBOLD electronic machines which have no paper trail, no audits, are completely hackable, and are/were taken home by election officials before and after the elections.

During an interview one worker stated that many polling places were competely out of Democratic primary ballots by noon.

Here's how the local Jacksonville paper, The Times-Union whose editorial pages are to the right of John Birch, described the problem:
Voting difficulties in Northeast Florida ranged from slightly inconvenient to major headaches for some voters in Tuesday's primary election.

Some voters found a precinct without electricity while others found no paper ballots available.

The biggest problem was the shortage of Democratic ballots in predominantly African-American precincts on the city's Westside and in Northwest Jacksonville, said Supervisor of Elections Jerry Holland.

He said the manager of the information technology department inadvertently confused the amount of Democratic and Republican ballots needed at four polling places: Long Branch Senior Center on Franklin Street, Clanzel T. Brown Community Center on Moncrief Road, Emanuel Missionary Baptist Church near Division Street and St. Paul AME Church on New Kings Road.

Poll workers received more Republican ballots than Democratic, Holland said.
Inadvertently my butt. When things happen repeatedly, they start to become a pattern. In point of fact, this is a pattern in our nation -- especially in the South -- which has never completely been rooted out. It's merely ebbed and flowed. I know I've seen a major resurgence since 2001 -- and in Florida that tsunami was especially thanks to wacka-doo Katherine Harris who with the support of the Supreme Fascist Court, annointed Shrub Bush the Royal Holy President. It's been downhill since. But have 'we' the citizens of the United States of America learned any lessons?

No wonder the repugnacons don't want African Americans and democrats to vote (or have paper trails) in Duval County and Northeast Florida:
Duval County Registered Voters as of 09/06/2006 total 534,041 and break down this way:
  • Republican: 197,027
  • Democrat: 241,605
  • Other: 95,409 ( independents in other parts of the country are trending toward the dems but I have no idea what's happening in Florida)
From the Voters Rights and Responsibilities provided in Florida Statute; Section 101.031(2):
Voter's Rights

Each registered voter in this state has the right to:
  • Vote and have his or her vote accurately counted
  • Cast a vote if he or she is in line at the official closing of the polls in that county
  • Ask for and receive assistance in voting
  • Receive up to two replacement ballots if he or she makes a mistake prior to the ballot being cast
  • An explanation if his or her registration is in question
  • If his or her registration is in question, cast a provisional ballot
  • Written instructions to use when voting, and, upon request, oral instructions in voting from election officers
  • Vote free from coercion or intimidation by elections officers or any other person
  • Vote on a voting system that is in working condition and that will allow votes to be accurately cast

Well, guess that doesn't apply to African Americans in Duval County -- again, and the loyal opposition isn't very oppositional:
Attorney Reggie Mitchell said he'll have to take election officials at their word about what caused the problem, but it concerns him that some voters left without casting their ballots. He said he's concerned that African-American precincts were affected and he worried that some voters may never have gotten the word that they could return to vote.

Other voters showed up at what they thought was their polling place only to find no poll workers there.

Judy Johnson, on the Northside, said when she turned up at her regular polling place on Dunn Avenue to vote, she found out her precinct had changed to Bethesda Park on Key Haven Boulevard. She said she never received notification of the change and several other voters expressed the same concern.

Holland said his office sent out new voter registration cards, sample ballots with new voting locations and a separate card for those people who live in areas with new polling places. He said there were also advertisements in the newspaper.

But Holland said he can't rule out that some people didn't receive notice of polling place changes.
More incompetence. More excuses. ZERO accountability.

I only hope this latest affront energizes another community that has put up with as much crap from these crackers and geezers than anyone should ever have to tolerate -- historically, much less NOW. The New South is the Old South all over again.

I understand and agree the African-American community has the right and responsibility to analyze and decide the solutions to its own problems while we white folks who stand in solidarity provide support and access to resources where possible. It's not up to me to prescribe or proscribe the 'solutions' but I can stand and work in solidarity (and challenge the ignorance, hate, intolerance, bigotry of other white folks -- and there are more than ample opportunities to do that, especially in the South, indeed, many of them in my own family, unfortunately).

One middle-aged white guy (I won't use the term gentleman) recently told me that there was no more racism in the south, certainly not in Florida -- that "all those people who did that stuff are dead now." We don't have to worry about that anymore. Wow. Wouldn't that be nice?

Like many non-dominant groups and communities (in terms of power, not necessarily population), resistance to oppression manifests in both healthful, proactive, productive ways and also self-destructive ones (in which lack of what Paolo Freire termed 'critical consciousness' usually plays a major role).

I also know -- as Attorney Reggie Mitchell proved above -- that southern culture places a high premium on 'deference to authority' through 'politeness' and 'manners' and imposes a harsh punishment on those who do not defer, especially anyone whose skin is not white, whose bank account is not filled, whose beliefs are not fundamentalist, evangelical christian, whose family is not 'acceptable' -- the list goes on.

Jacksonville, like many impoverished and historically devastated communities, has the highest murder rate in the state of Florida, one of the highest in the country -- escalating rates of murders and violence which occur primarily among and by young african american males. Imagine if we as a nation were now investing $300 billion per month toward uplifting, educating, training, healing, clothing, housing, feeding babies, families, children, moms, dads, the elderly, the ill, infirm, disabled and communities in need instead of figuring out the latest and greatest ways to demolish other human beings. Yes, some people deserve to be in jail or prison; that is a fact. Some people (black white etc) are beyond redemption. Many, however are not. Certainly children do not deserve to be neglected into a life without hope or possibilities.

I also can't imagine an attorney in New York or Los Angeles or Chicago saying he/she would 'accept' whatever the powers that be told him/her about the 'whoopsie' of too few ballots.

Another example of no one holding those in power accountable nor insisting upon transparency: The Duval County 'sample ballot' online seems woefully inadequate, cumbersome and incomplete. They have apparently already removed 'sample' ballots for the September 5 primaries (if they were actually ever there) and the site now shows the 2006 General Election Information for November. However, it's just text from a database -- they don't provide pdfs or images of the actual paper ballot nor digital images of the 'electronic' ones either.

The current 'ballot' is a bare minimum searchable (only by address) database, broken into bits and pieces, not the whole picture, not the whole ballot. It only shows a bare minimum of information for the smallest precinct/geographic information possible; currently only county commissioners. There are no statewide or congressional district candidates provided online. There are no party affiliations. Maybe it's just because the election just took place. I'll concede that possibility.

BUT: Where are all the archives of the paper and electronic ballots -- not just the results -- for the elections that took place not only yesterday but all prior elections? There should be comprehensive archives, a historical trail of solid documentation as any reputable, honest, trustworthy election clerk would attempt to do. The site as a whole is not transparent. Google searches reveal nothing historical or current, for example > a google search for 2004 OR PDF 'did not match any documents.' Not a good sign for a government that is supposed to be 'by and for the people' from my way of thinking.

The system that I am viewing now forces a voter to 'hunt and peck' one tiny chunk of information at a time (again, based on what is online at this moment, perhaps there will be changes soon -- if so, I'll update this). But for now you have to navigate, search, click multiple links to try to find one set of information relevant to your district or precinct if you are a voter. Truly a confusing mishmash.

Additionally, Duval County Election staff (and Florida election officials) can LEGALLY take Diebold electronic voting machines home before and after elections. Voters should have zero confidence in in Jerry Holland, in the Duval County Election Systems and in the state of Florida. Holland and most of the sate of Florida seems to follow the Katherine Harris school of election records. The (republican) legislators in Florida have made sure that voters can be screwed.

Holland's track record of non-disclosure also includes failure to fully notify the public about proposed changes in 'early voting' and local elections:
Changing the date of elections also would affect the candidates, council President Michael Corrigan said. Well-funded candidates probably would not mind, but grass-roots candidates might need that time to mount a campaign.

"You're going to lose 30 days of knocking on doors. That could be the difference in a race," said Corrigan, who is running unopposed for re-election to his District 14 seat this spring.

Linda Whipple, chairwoman of the Duval Democratic Party, said she had not heard about the changes.

"Shame on Mr. Holland for not contacting the two political parties on this and getting our input," she said.

The change could hurt candidates in the first election, she said, but any candidates facing off in the second election would have more time to raise money.

Elections officials defended the changes.

"It's not a matter of convenience. It's a matter of logistics," said Robert Phillips, senior elections officer. "The amount of requirements have changed. The hours in a day have not.
The republican big-tent is a myth. That's a fact that ought to be pretty obvious by now. And you know what? I'll concede: the Democrats, especially those who occupy the rungs at the top haven't been been a whole lot better. And when folks like Ray Nagin support candidates like George Bush (true fact), then you know we're all in a big mess that deserves our focused attention and intentions to make some changes. Time to throw the bums out.

One hopeful note that a serious, real, actual (external) investigation will possibly ensue (and be concluded prior to the November elections):
An attorney for the People for the American Way Foundation traveled from Tallahassee to Jacksonville Tuesday afternoon to investigate the issue. The foundation works to protect the rights of all voters.
But I'm not holding my breath.

Footnote: Today's Diane Rehm show is about the vulnerability, lies and corruptibility of electronic ballots with computer IT expert and professor Aviel Rubin author of "Brave New Ballot" The Battle to Safeguard Democracy in the Age of Electronic Ballots (Morgan Road Books). The author, who has been attacked and threatened repeatedly by Diebold, discusses his 2003 report on serious security flaws in electronic voting machines, the controversy it stirred up, and the state of electronic voting security as elections approach.

primaries elections voting rights voter's rights florida elections Florida florida primary Jacksonville Florida Katherine Harris democrats republicans ballots racism oppression electronic ballots electronic voting Diane Rehm NPR

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