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COUP WATCH: Voting Rights In Florida-- From Red Rock Eater News Service

by Phil Agre Friday, Dec. 08, 2000 at 11:27 AM

It's a bigger coup than you thought, according to this dash through the tangled web that stretches from the Miami mayoral absentee ballot fraud several years ago to the Supreme Court’s states’-rights additions to the 11th Amendment and it’s potential impact in preventing Florida citizens from suing the state of Florida for violating their voting rights. Plus links, and more.

COUP WATCH: Voting Rights In Florida-- From Red Rock Eater News Service COUP WATCH: Voting Rights In Florida-- From Red Rock Eater News Service

By Phil Agre

Thu Dec 07 13:22:31 2000

[So let's get this straight. A Republican became mayor of Miami through massive absentee ballot fraud. The election was thrown out by means of a statistical adjustment of the vote and his opponent was given the post. Florida's Republican government reacted by hiring a Republican firm with a history of questionable business dealings to prepare lists of citizens who should be cleansed from the voting rolls.

But, oops!, the lists included many thousands of extra people. The Republican legislature also enacted tough laws making it highly illegal to mess with absentee ballot applications. So what happens? Republicans walk into at least two county election offices and mess with thousands of absentee ballot applications. And who is helping the Florida Republican Party prepare absentee ballot applications? Yes, that's right, the guy who became mayor of Miami through massive absentee ballot fraud.

At the same time, George W. Bush says that his favorite Supreme Court justice is Antonin Scalia, who the other day said that Americans have no right to vote for President. Meanwhile, the chief justice of the Supreme Court, our buddy Bill Rehnquist, got his start by agitating against minority voting rights in Arizona. These same Supreme Court justices, just a few months ago, repealed big hunks of Article VI and the 14th Amendment to the Constitution by adding to the 11th Amendment a new states'-rights provision that, as the majority openly admitted, can be found nowhere in either the text or the framers' discussions of it.

This new provision prevents the federal government from allowing citizens to sue individual states. The case at hand was something perfectly obscure, but it's plain that the real target of this brazen activism was voting rights. Florida violated the voting rights of its citizens in at least a dozen different ways in the election just past, including ways that are quite amazingly reminiscent of the mysterious Florida elections of recent times, and citizens are in court right now attempting to seek redress under federal voting rights statutes. Can you spot the pattern?

Although I said that I'm not systematically collecting election-related URL's any more, people keep sending me useful items that I can't just toss on the floor. So here they are:

Neither Won, So Split Electors Between Them

Choking the Florida Black Vote

Just Our Bill

The Loose Ends of Election 2000

Keep Them Out!

America in the Grip of Bush's "Iron Triangle",3858,4099753,00.html

Republican rioters identified

Butterfly Voters Confused

Credibility of Voter Purging Questioned

Problems In Florida 2000 Vote Echo 1988 Senate Race,1175,2-16556-,00.html

For those who want to forward this message to their friends, here are the
election-related URL's that I included in my list of pointers the other day.

Who Lost Florida?

The Madness in the GOP's Method

Florida's Flawed "Voter-Cleansing" Program

Thanks to everyone who contributed.]

This message was forwarded through the Red Rock Eater News Service (RRE). You are welcome to send the message along to others but please do not use the "redirect" option. For information about RRE, including instructions for (un)subscribing, see

Date: Wed, 06 Dec 2000 12:09:10 -0800
From: "Paul H. Rosenberg"


*The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States*
      By Alexander Keyssar / Basic Books
      467 pages; .00
Reviewed by
      Paul Rosenberg

The United States has abysmally low voter turnout, yet we still cherish a public mythology that America is the "Land of Democracy", superior to all others in every significant way. This includes the assumption that Americans have long enjoyed something close to universal suffrage. We know this wasn't true in the pre-civil rights era South, but that's usually regarded as a regional anomaly and is readily shrugged off. If we haven't always been perfect, at least we've always striven for perfection -- so goes the myth.

Historians have long known otherwise. Most notoriously, blacks gained the right to vote after the Civil War, only to lose it almost completely in the deep South under Jim Crow, but there are numerous less-dramatic reversals. In *The Right To Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States*, Duke historian Alexander Keyssar does much more than collect these various reversals together. He develops a broad-based, realistic picture of the various historical forces working for or against the expansion of democracy, which in turn makes sense of an otherwise bewildering array of advances and retreats. The result is a marvelously coherent, richly detailed history of a most hard-won right. America certainly was the first modern democracy, but being first did not exempt us from the kinds of historical struggles that plagued other countries in expanding the right of self-government.

Without oversimplifying, Keyssar identifies four different periods in our history when distinctive dynamics tended to prevail. Immigration, urbanization, industrialization and class conflict were the great engines driving these changes. The first period of expanding the electorate lasted until around 1850. Then mass immigration and the specter of a European-style working class triggered a period of upper- and middle-class hostility to democracy in which a variety of measures (such as registration laws and residency requirements) contracted the electorate until WWI. A third, static period of mostly minor tinkering lasted until the 1960s, when the impetus of the civil rights movement helped do away with most other obstacles as well. The two highest-profile struggles for voting rights -- that of women and blacks -- generally don't fit neatly into these periods. Instead, the different period dynamics explain a great deal about the obstacles those movements struggled against and the forces favoring them.

This history is sprinkled with surprising details, such as 19th century frontier states that allowed alien settlers to vote, states that allowed women to vote in school board elections, and the nearly-universal loss of voting rights by free blacks between 1790 and 1850, when voting rights for whites were expanding. Even more revealing is the harsh light the factual record throws on spurious ideals used to restrict voting rights. Residency and registration laws, invariably proposed in the name of good government always managed to have a sharp class and ethnic bias in keeping people from the polls. States often passed such laws limited to major cities populated by immigrant workers.

Equally telling is the recurrence of anti-democratic ideas, raised to the level of high principle whenever too many of the "wrong sort" start to think that the "self" in "self-government" includes them. Particular favorites were the notion that voting is a privilege or a trust, not a right, and a cluster of sometimes contradictory rationales surrounding property or wealth restrictions. Although such battles seem safely past, the yawning chasm between our mythic ideal and our real history is a potent reminder against glib self- congratulation, particularly when so few now see this right as the precious prize *The Right to Vote* shows it to be.

Paul Rosenberg
Reason and Democracy

"Let's put the information BACK into the information age!"

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