"The 2000 election in Florida shook Americans from all walks of life and of all political persuasions. Many were left wondering about the viability of America's democratic system. Much has changed since the election's frenzied aftermath, in which hordes of reporters jammed the streets of Tallahassee, Palm Beach, and Miami, chasing ballots and lawyers for 36 days before the presidency was called by a margin of 537 votes out of the six million cast in Florida. But Florida is a state with a history of disenfranchising blacks--a legacy that seemed all too current in 2000. And the president's brother is still governor.
"Could it happen again? "Butterfly ballots" are gone, so there will be no more accidental votes for fringe candidates such as Pat Buchanan. Chads--dimpled, hanging, pregnant--are history, for the punch-card machines that used them have been decertified. In their place are sleek, new electronic voting machines, known as D.R.E.'s (direct-recording electronic voting machines). An estimated half of the state's voters will be using them this November--including those in the three largest Democratic counties.
"The D.R.E.'s look and work reassuringly like A.T.M.'s. Yet unlike A.T.M.'s, touch-screens provide no paper receipt--no proof at all that a vote has been cast as the voter intended. Touch-screens have been plagued around the country by serious questions about their security and their accuracy in registering votes. In Florida, however, the story is more disturbing than in most states. The company that sewed up most of the key counties with raw political clout has installed machines that have confounded poll workers and voters alike and led to problems that the state, in its embarrassment, has tried to minimize again and again.
'"The state has been equally disingenuous in its attempt to bar ex-felons from voting. For the 2000 election, a notorious ex-felon list, composed of more than 50,000 names, was compiled and the appropriate sections were sent by the state to the elections supervisors of Florida's 67 counties, along with a directive to purge those confirmed as felons from the rolls. It turned out, though, that the list had been swollen with an estimated 20,000 names of possible innocents, wrongly included. Roughly 54 percent of those on the list were black, while blacks make up just under 15 percent of the statewide population. In Florida, some 90 percent of blacks vote Democratic. Surely, the embarrassment would prevent the state from attempting another high-tech felon hunt in 2004. But no. In May, the local elections supervisors learned that there was a new list. Only in July, when flaws were again revealed by journalists--flaws that would once more favor Republicans--did the state throw out the list. While there will no longer be an electronic list used to keep former felons from voting, the recent events have led to disturbing new questions. What did the state know about the flaws? How was mass disenfranchisement almost caused again?"
But, before I close, a few words of wisdom. I won't disclose the source, and you'll have to read it to find out its attribution, because it may well surprise you:
You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.
You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
You cannot lift the wage earner up by pulling the wage payer down.
You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.
You cannot build character and courage by taking away people's initiative and independence.
You cannot help people permanently by doing for them, what they could and should do for themselves.
The principles and principals in this matter will be under the closest possible scrutiny staring sternly back at you as in the photo below attributed to US News and World Report online:
Can it happen again?
Will it happen again?!
Unfortunately only time will tell. The decision now rests with a small percentage of voters.
Getting out the vote both fairly an completely and tallying it in an indisputable way has hitherto eluded this great nation of ours. Certainly, do vote!