View Full Version : Another reason why many Blacks don't trust the government of the USA

Sep 22nd, 2002, 03:18 AM
Snafu has Florida black voters leery

Following second election mishap, many questioning system

By Allen G. Breed

MIAMI, Sept. 16

Lawrence Moss was 66 and voting for the first time. He had doubts that a black man’s vote counted for much, but he’d made a promise.

HE WALKED TO the polls at the bunker-like elementary school in his impoverished Miami neighborhood Tuesday, only to be told the machines weren’t up. Like many other south Florida blacks, he didn’t get to vote a sad reminder of the botched 2000 presidential election, when many minorities here felt their votes didn’t count and their candidate lost by just a few hundred votes.
“In America, who would think that something would happen like with the presidential election?” says the retired social worker and Air Force veteran, who lives in Liberty City, a neighborhood where the ice cream man drives a van with cages over every bit of glass and residents yell to visitors through barred windows.
“In this day and time, in America?”
It wasn’t supposed to happen again. The state spent $32 million and counties spent millions more to train poll workers on high-tech voting systems to replace the punchcard ballots and hanging chads of the last election.

Miami-Dade County alone spent $25 million preparing for this election.
But when Christopher Edley Jr. and other members of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission visited the state in June, elections officials said they weren’t ready. And Edley warned that “a disaster seemed to be in the making.”
“My fear is that officials haven’t taken the necessary steps to counter these traditional patterns, starving poor communities and minority communities of the resources they need for the democratic infrastructure,” says Edley, a Harvard Law School professor.
“The Constitution no longer permits votes to be discounted on the basis of color and class. And whether that happens by intention or by accident, it’s a problem we ought to fix.”
As in the 2000 presidential race, this year’s Democratic gubernatorial primary came down to a relatively few votes — several thousand this time, instead of several hundred. And with the narrow margin came allegations of widespread irregularities at the polls.
Electrical sockets with no juice. Machines crashing for hours at a time. A precinct closing two hours early because the bar it occupied was opening.
In Jacksonville, Millie Surrency was voting Tuesday at the office of the election supervisor. But when she went to vote for former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno for governor, she didn’t see her candidate’s name on the ballot. The precinct workers had given her a Republican ballot, and Surrency says they refused to correct the mistake.
Surrency, a Hispanic who is married to a black Army veteran, volunteers in a get-out-the-vote campaign that targets young blacks, many of whom had little faith in the system already. Now, she doesn’t know what to tell them.
“I have a 20-year-old daughter who told me, ‘Mom, I will never vote again,”’ she says, near tears. “I got lots of young blacks to register ... and this happens? They’ve lost all faith.”
As in 2000, many of the problems were in predominantly black precincts.

In black precinct after black precinct in Miami-Dade, hundreds of people stood in line, some returning two, three, four times after being told the machines were down. Yet in several of those precincts, the voter turnout was listed as zero.
Elections officials say workers may have missed a step causing votes to go uncounted, and they are scrambling to recheck every machine before Tuesday’s state deadline for official results.
County Commissioner Dorrin Rolle, a black man whose district includes Liberty City, is facing a runoff for his seat, he thinks, because his voters — “who built this community” — got discouraged.
“Even if it was one vote, there’s no way of recapturing that,” he thundered at Supervisor of Elections David Leahy, who has taken much of the heat for the problems.

Fellow Commissioner Barbara Carey-Shuler, who is also black, suggested that the problems at minority polling places could be laid at the feet of social inequality.
Poor blacks are less likely to have technical training, she says. Many of the precinct workers were literally afraid of the new machines and the state provided little money for training.
Edley is a “huge fan” of touchscreen voting. But he feels Florida “legislated half measures, and then only halfway implemented those.”

“The biggest lesson, both this year and from two years ago, is that ... depending upon local financing of the democratic process almost inevitably cheats communities that lack resources and political clout,” he says.
Lawrence Moss knows what it’s like to lack clout.
As a young man with two years of college, he applied for a warehouse job and was told he’d gotten it. Then a white kid fresh out of high school showed up.
“He tore up my application,” Moss says of the warehouseman. “In my presence.”
Moss made a promise to himself. He would not vote until he became a first-class citizen.
“Not became one,” he corrected himself. “Treated as one.”
Moss still didn’t feel that had happened. But recently, a lawyer who had done some work for Moss said he could pay her by registering to vote.
So he awoke early Tuesday and, despite his heart condition, walked the couple of blocks to the Thena C. Crowder Elementary School — named for one of the city’s first black principals — to cast his ballot for Reno. Poll workers insist the machines were up and running at 7 a.m., although they later went down for five hours.
Moss says he waited 20 or 30 minutes, then trudged home. He didn’t feel well enough to return later.
“I felt left out,” he says sadly.
The NAACP, which just two weeks ago settled a lawsuit against Florida and several counties over the 2000 election, has threatened to sue again over this primary. Some black leaders want Leahy fired.
Moss says he’ll try again, maybe in November. But he hasn’t seen much to change his opinion of his place in society.
“Every vote counts,” he says. “So I went to make mine count. I went — but to no avail.”

Ted of Teds Tennis
Sep 22nd, 2002, 03:56 AM
FWIW, I'm white, and had a problem with the voting booths here in New York back in 2000. We elect judges in New York, and I'm strongly opposed to this practice. So, I cast write-in votes in all judicial races. When I went to do this in 2000, I opened up the little windows for writing one's write-in vote -- and was horrified to see my write in votes from 1998 staring me in the face!

I called the Board of Elections, and never heard anything from them.

I have a feeling you're going to disagree with me on my final statement, Volcana, but there wouldn't be so many disputes over elections if we weren't giving the government enormous power to muck up people's lives. This power is the same reason why there's as much money spent on political campaigns as there is.

Sep 22nd, 2002, 04:01 AM
Does anybody (of any race) REALLY trust their government?

I'm not arguing with you about that article, but no-one trusts their government anyway.

Sep 22nd, 2002, 04:24 AM
Our State Government in Florida gave the Dade and Broward Counties' Elections Supervisors two years and over $25 million to fix their voting procedures. Once again, like they did in 2000, they were the main problem counties in Florida to elect an official. This time, it was either Bill McBride or Janet Reno.

Unfortunately, these Election Supervisors chose to use these millions of dollars on computers instead of ballots that the diverse population could understand. These counties do have lots of elderly, retired, and barely speaking English voters. It was suggested to the supervisors to use ballot forms like the other counties in Florida use and would be easier for them to vote. They also failed to open the polls until two hours after they were supposed to.

Once again, 65 out of 67 counties in Florida had no serious problems and ran smoothly enough to get all their ballots in on time. My county is in Central time and finished ahead of Dade and Broward Counties and they are in Eastern time. Even the absentee ballots were in ahead of these two counties final tallies. If these registered voters want to help solve these voting problems, in the next election for Elections Supervisor for their County, vote these idiots out of office.

Sam L
Sep 22nd, 2002, 04:33 AM
I have nothing to say except this is an interesting read :eek:

Sep 22nd, 2002, 06:55 AM
Good article. :)

Everyone talks about accountability until he is blue in the face. Therefore, if these contracts were awarded to fully computerize and make the voting process much easier, then the goverment should hold these contractors accountable. One would think after the fiasco in the 2000 presidential elections, the Board of Elections would have their act together. It is a sad commentary on the voting process not only in Florida, but anywhere else where there are these same problems.