Tuesday, October 18, 2005


The Scandal of the Century

from Booman:

by lichtman
Mon Oct 17th, 2005 at 07:00:14 PM EDT

Unlike the response to Hurricane Katrina, the first great scandal of the century remains mostly unknown. This was the disenfranchisement of more than 50,000 African-American voters in Florida's 2000 presidential election. These were not potential votes struck from the rolls as felons or prevented from reaching the polls. These were voters who actually turned up at the polls and fully expected their ballots to be counted in the election.

George W. Bush will be president of the United States for eight years because the votes counted in
Florida's 2000 election did not come close to matching the ballots cast by the state's voters. The result in Florida was not decided by hanging chads, recounts, or intervention by the Supreme Court. As the analyst for the U. S. Commission on Civil Rights I found that George Bush won Florida and the presidency because officials tossed into the trashcan as invalid one out of every nine to ten ballots cast by African-Americans throughout the state. In some counties, nearly 25 percent of ballots cast by blacks were set aside as invalid. In contrast, officials rejected less than one out of every fifty ballots cast by whites statewide.

Such treatment of a minority group would have raised a worldwide scandal if it happened, for example, to Catholics in Northern Ireland. But because it happened to blacks in the United States, few noticed. Imagine if George Bush had lost in 2000 because one of nine white voters had their ballots disqualified. George Will, Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh would have proclaimed the end of civilization as we know it. Instead, the Right cynically suppressed the truth of Florida's scandal.

But slumbering liberals were no less to blame than militant conservatives for the lack of national attention to an extraordinary injustice to minorities that decided a presidential election. Why no mobilization of protest from the NAACP or the Democratic Party?

If black ballots had been rejected at the same rate as white ballots, more than 50,000 additional black votes would have been counted in Florida's presidential election. Given that more than 90 percent of blacks favored Gore over Bush, Gore would have won Florida by at least 40,000 votes, carried the Electoral College, and become President of the United States. You know the price the country and world has paid for this injustice.

The failure to reckon with what happened to African-American voters in Florida also meant that our country missed a chance five years ago to confront persisting racism and its consequences. Instead, the suppression of the truth about Florida's presidential elections upheld the notion that race no longer matters in America and that discrimination ended long ago in the era of the civil rights movement.

It took the second scandal of Hurricane Katrina, to force George W. Bush and his allies to admit "there is also some deep, persistent poverty in this region," with "roots in a history of racial discrimination." Yet in the weeks since, the president has offered nothing to cope with race, poverty, or anything else that irks America.

Not only in Florida, but across the nation, I have seen first hand the reality of racial discrimination as an expert witness in more than 70 civil rights and redistricting cases. In Texas, for example, I testified against Tom DeLay's redistricting plan that destroyed the voting rights of millions of African-Americans and Hispanics by fragmenting their communities and scattering minority voters within Anglo-dominated Republican districts. Now I am bringing to electoral politics my experience with civil rights and other issues by running as a Democrat for the open US Senate seat in Maryland. Please check out my credentials and ideas on www.allanlichtman.com. Look for my next diary on a ten point plan to bring full and fair voting to the United States.

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