Greg Palast, Author of "Best Democracy Money Can Buy," Exposes the Continued Suppression of Florida's Black Vote in Election 2002
A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW
Be warned. This exclusive interview with Greg Palast will boil your blood. 94,000 people -- over half of them African American --have been on a "scrub list" in Florida, which meant they were blocked from voting in the 2000 election. Remember, Al Gore lost by "537" votes. The thing is, most of them were legally allowed to vote and were prevented from voting by Katherine Harris, former Florida Secretary of State, and Jeb Bush, in a failed attempt to root out felons.
Instead, they blocked legal voters from casting ballots and having their voices heard. Well, certainly Florida would have made sure that all those people who could legally vote, would have their constitutional freedoms restored by this Nov. 5th to vote in the election, right? Wrong.
Florida won't get to it until the beginning of January 2003. McBride and Jeb Bush are dead even. According to Palast, perhaps as many as 91,000 should have their names taken off the "scrub list" and be legally permitted to vote this Tuesday, Nov. 5th. Something is rotten in the state of Florida. This weekend, BuzzFlash interviewed Greg Palast about this shocking revelation and the blatant ongoing assault on democracy.
Greg Palast, an investigative reporter for the BBC and the Observer (sister paper of the Guardian), is well-known among BuzzFlash readers for his expose on how Jeb Bush and Katherine Harris disenfranchised black voters in Florida. He spent several years in London because tenacious investigative reporters are not valued in the U.S. media, although he just recently moved to New York City to continue investigating what the major networks won't tell us. Greg is thorough, cynical and fearless. This is our fourth interview with Greg Palast, author of "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy," which is available from BuzzFlash.com.
Additional information on Greg Palast's 2002 investigation of how the so-called "felon purge" continues to disenfranchise thousands and thousands of black voters in Florida can be found at Salon.com.
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BUZZFLASH: On election day, what kind of potential voter fraud on the part of the Republicans should be watching for in Florida?
GREG PALAST: It's a whole new horror show. Two years ago, I reported that Katherine Harris and Jeb Bush had order county elections officials to erase 57,000 voters from voter rolls -- most of them Black, almost all of them innocent -- on grounds they are felons.
It cost Gore the White House.
So hereís the new tricks from these old dogs: The company that came up with this rotten little "purge" list has, under threat of suit from the NAACP, confessed that the total purge targeted 94,000 voters -- and that, at outside tops, only 3,000 may be illegal voters.
This weekend, on www.Salon.com, I'm breaking the ill news that, while the state admits that it kept these legal voters away from the polls, they will not put them back on the registries -- get this -- until AFTER the election on Tuesday.
First Bro' Jeb is in the fight of his life -- a statistical dead heat with Democrat Bill McBride ... so the Republicans, with their hands on the elections machinery, seem to be saying, "Whatís the use of stealing an election in 2000 if we have to give it back two years later?"
If Jeb wins by less than 100,000, it will be theft, pure and simple.
BUZZFLASH: Doesn't electronic, touch screen voting actually improve the chances for large scale election fraud? Votes can more easily be lost with a little "software glitch" or Democratic votes could become Republican votes and who would know the difference?
PALAST: Hell, yes. The "touch" screens are made by ES&S, chosen by Katherine Harris, congressional candidate. The lobbyist for that company is Sandy Mortham, founder of Women for Jeb -- and Harrisí predecessor as Secretary of State. It was Mortham that began the hunt for black voters in 1998.
These Mortha-matic machines -- surprise, surprise --failed to work in Black precincts. And there was no paper ballot back-up.
Itís not planned "conspiracy" -- itís what I call "passive vote fraud." You KNOW a screw up will occur that will wipe out your opponents votes ... and you simply don't do anything to prevent it. I used to be a government investigator of racketeering and fraud. Passive fraud is no more legal than active fraud. But then, who's going to act on this? John Ashcroft?
BUZZFLASH: Has anything been improved in terms of ensuring a fair vote in Florida since election 2000?
PALAST: Worse worse and uglier.
Not many people know that US civil rights groups have complained to Ashcroft that his plan to send down "monitors" into Black precincts to look for vote fraud looks an awful lot like the "voter integrity" campaigns used by segregationists to intimidate Black voters and defeat the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
There was one bright light. In my book, "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy," I reported that one in eight votes in Gadsden, Florida's "Blackest" county, were "spoiled" and never counted. The optical readers knocked out every paper ballot with a stray mark. Over 2000 ballots voided .... zero doubt that Gadsden alone accounted for Goreís loss.
Here's the ugly part. In next-door "white" Tallahassee, the same ballots and same counting machines returned "spoiled" ballots to voters so they could vote again. Almost no white votes were lost.
Now the good part. A black woman defeated the white incumbent elections supervisor in Gadsden. She changed the machines ... and total spoiled votes went from over 2,000 to just 16 in the entire county!
She beat a Democrat. So you see, the issue is not Democrats versus Republicans, it is white officials suppressing the Black vote -- a bi-partisan effort. Jim Crow is alive and jumping in America once again -- but now taking on a sneaky form ... through manipulation of voting machines. The New Knight Riders don't have sheets, they have laptops and Harvard law degrees.
BUZZFLASH: Tell us more about the felon voting issue, which you exposed as a calculated -- and successful effort by Jeb Bush and Katherine Harris to deny minority (and presumably Democratic) voters their right to cast a ballot.
PALAST: You want to have nightmares? See the film "Counting on Democracy" -- which some PBS stations are running in defiance of the PBS network blackout. [Check my site www.GregPalast.com for listings.] In this film by Danny Schechter, who followed me around when I was investigating for BBC TV, I discover that the purge of "faux felon" black voters was deliberate: planned and executed with the connivance of the Harris and the Governorís office.
Another film also delves into the story: "Unprecedented" -- a film that is looking for a broadcast home right now, though you can get copies from the producers at www.Unprecedented.org.
In a nutshell: every time clerks or county officials or the computer company DBT told the state the lists contained innocent people, the Republican functionaries said, "Shhhhh! Donít change a thing." Because they saw the racial profile of the voters -- which is listed on all Florida registration forms -- BLACK BLACK WHITE BLACK.
BUZZFLASH: The Republicans, are, as usual, claiming voter fraud in the current election, yet Republicans in Arkansas are intimidating pre-election minority voters at polling stations. It's Jim Crow all over again.
PALAST: Worse worse and uglier. Why can't the Democrats make Republican voting fraud and intimidation a media "issue"? Yet, the Republicans trump up charges against Democrats about voting irregularities -- or take one small incident and blow it out of proportion -- and get the media to blast it on the front pages, as in the case of alleged voting irregularities on Native American reservations in South Dakota?
The Democrats are schizoid: on one hand, the party of the oppressed -- on the other hand, the traditional party of Jim Crow. All politics are local. While more Black votes help the Dems at the national and state level, local Dems would rather do without dark voters. For example, the Democrat's electoral lynching of Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney would have been impossible if there had been wider Black registration and voting in her district.
BUZZFLASH: The final two questions are on a personal note: Where are you going to be on election day and what are you going to be doing?
PALAST: I'm going to be taking care of my father, who just got out of the hospital. It's even conceivable that you'll see my middle-aged snout on television or hear me on radio commenting on the Fraud in Florida ... but don't count on it. I've been asked to appear on the major Canadian and European programs ... the rest of the world cares about US democracy ... but the US media couldn't give a shit. Investigative journalism has been all but outlawed in the USA. So, the only questions concerning Jim Lehrer and Ted Koppel are which wigs they should wear.
And Tuesday, I'll be changing my party affiliation to "none."
BUZZFLASH: How does it feel to be back in the States after years in England? What is your reaction to the wall-to-wall "high octane ratings" coverage of the Sniper shooting? In England, does the news media use violence and death as fodder to boost ratings?
PALAST: Not many snipers in England.
A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW
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For more on the story, read, "Jeb Bush's Secret Weapon," featured in today's Salon.com. http://www.salon.com/politics/feature/2002/11/01/lists/index_np.html?x
This month, PBS stations nationwide will broadcast "Counting on Democracy," featuring Palast's investigation of state manipulation of the vote in Florida during the 2000 presidential election. Local broadcast times for the film, directed by Emmy award-winner Danny Schechter, can be found at at www.GregPalast.com (Events), where you can also read and subscribe to Greg Palast's "London Observer" columns and view his reports for BBC Television's Newsnight.
Get your copy of "Best Democracy Money Can Buy" from BuzzFlash.com.
[All copyrights for this interview -- including posting and reprint rights -- belong to Greg Palast. Greg grants all and everyone the right to reproduce it so long as they add, "This interview first appeared at Buzzflash.com."]
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