As indicated below, I will be conferencing in Chicago this week and lecturing in Kentucky next week, so will be popping in only sporadically. The good news is that the familiar LizardBreath of Unfogged and a new face, Bean of the terrific (and stylishly designed) a Bird and a Bottle will be here for all your blogging needs, in addition to our regular cast. In the meantime, lest the issue of our voting system seem too abstract, I will quote from Jack Balkin and Sandy Levinson’s 2001 Virginia Law Review Article, “Understanding the Constitutional Revolution“:
[Bush] and the political party that he leads seized power through the confluence of two important events that would have caused widespread outrage and produced vigorous objections from neutral observers if they had occurred in a third world country. [
The first is the disenfranchisement of black voters in Florida in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Concerned about alleged voter fraud in the 1997 Miami mayoral election, Florida state officials hired Database Technologies, a private firm with Republican connections, to purge the voter rolls of suspected felons. “Suspected,” it turned out, is the key word, because a substantial number of the purged voters turned out to be guilty of nothing more than the crime of being African-American. Although Database Technologies repeatedly warned that their methods would produce many false positives, Florida officials insisted on eliminating large numbers of suspected felons from the rolls and leaving it to county supervisors and individual voters to correct any inaccuracies. Clay Roberts, director of the state’s division of elections, explained that “the decision was made to do the match in such a way as not to be terribly strict on the name.” Indeed, the list was so inclusive that one county election supervisor found that she was on it.
It is estimated that at least fifteen percent of the purge list statewide was inaccurate, and well over half of these voters were black. When these unsuspecting voters arrived at their precincts on November in order to exercise their “fundamental political right” to the franchise, they were turned away. Any protests were effectively silenced by the bureaucratic machinery of Florida law. As the U.S. Civil Rights Commission put it, “perhaps the most dramatic undercount in Florida’s election was the nonexistent ballots of countless unknown eligible voters, who were turned away, or wrongfully purged from the voter registration rolls by various procedures and practices and were prevented from exercising the franchise.” Those voters, wrongfully excluded from the rolls, were almost certainly more than enough to overcome George W. Bush’s 537 vote margin in Florida. In addition, many African-Americans who did vote nevertheless had their ballots spoiled and thus left uncounted because they lived in counties with antiquated and unreliable voting equipment. The Civil Rights Commission estimated that black voters were nine times more likely to have their votes rejected than white voters.
Because a violation of the federal Voting Rights Act, even if conclusively proved, does not give rise to a right to a new presidential election, the story of black disenfranchisement was not effectively covered in the American mass media during the December 2000 struggle over the Florida election. [cites omitted]
It’s almost impossible to overstate how much this matters.