The Re-Election of Jim Crow

From Greg Palast, writing in Southern Exposure, the magazine of the progressive Institute for Southern Studies:

THE RE-ELECTION OF JIM CROW: How Jeb Bush’s Team is Trying to Steal Florida Again

There is no shame.

In 2000, Katherine Harris, Florida Secretary of State, ordered county elections officials to purge 57,000 citizens from voter registries as felons not allowed to vote in Florida. In fact, about 95 percent of these voters were innocent of crimes — but 54 percent were guilty of being African-American. No guess there: a voter’s race is right there on the voter form. So there was the election: BBC Television, for whom I conducted the investigation of this black-out operation, figures Al Gore lost 22,000 votes this way.

But I was wrong. The company that put together this racial roster that fixed the election, DBT On-Line of Boca Raton, has now ‘fessed up, having been sued by the NAACP for violating Floridians’ civil rights. They have turned over to the NAACP’s lawyers a report indicating that the state ordered the purge of 94,000 voters and that, according to the company’s data, no more than 3,000 are likely illegal voters.

In April of this year, Harris wrote that my reporting was “twisted and maniacally partisan” — but not, in the main, wrong. The Secretary of State, now candidate for Congress for Sarasota, settled with the NAACP, agreeing that legal voters had been mistakenly purged, but admitting no wrongdoing.

Here’s where it gets nasty. Harris and the state admit that tens of thousands of black voters had been wronged, and with plantation noblesse have agreed to return them to the voter rolls — at the beginning of 2003. In other words, the votes seized in November 2002 will not be emancipated until after the ballots are counted in the race between Governor Jeb Bush and his Democratic opponent Bill McBride.

Is there some technical reason for the delay? The first purge was launched in 1998 only weeks before Jeb’s last run for office; yet the order to reverse the process is dragging for months since settlement and nearly two years since the exposure of the list’s falsity.

Not all of the 91,000 wrongly listed for the purge lost their vote; and most, though not all, are Democrats. But in a Governor’s race in a statistical dead heat, these tens of thousands of votes may well decide the outcome.

Small print: This story appears in a special edition of Southern Exposure magazine, “The Right To Vote.” Copies are available for $5 at Southern Exposure, P.O. Box 531, Durham, NC 27702, USA, or (919) 419-8311 x21. The full version of this story will appear in the winter 2002/2003 issue.

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