Things are going well in Afghanistan, and I think the Bush Administration deserves high marks for that.

Here at home, the consistent theme remains: it is a grand time to be rich and powerful in America. There are so many examples it’s hard to keep up.

The two big examples, of course, are, first, the Bush budget, which provided massive tax cuts for the wealthy to be carved painlessly out of the massive budget surpluses that, we were told, even allowing for recession, would stretch as far as the eye could see (except now we’re back in deficit) . . . and, second, the Republican emergency economic stimulus package, now being debated in Washington, which would send billions of dollars to wealthy corporations that simply have no need of the stimulus, and would rehire not a single laid-off worker as a result.

But there are so many ‘little’ examples.

Like using the anti-terrorism legislation rushed through Congress in the wake of September 11 to shield U.S. tobacco companies from foreign lawsuits. That should throw the terrorists for a loop. (Click here if you missed that Monday.)

Or like this one that I meant to run last month but only now have rediscovered.

I yield the balance of my time to young Florida State Senator Kendrick Meek. Blessed are the meek, someone said – but let’s for heaven’s sake not have them showing up at public hearings!

[Bold-facing is mine, to make for quicker skimming.]

November 7, 2001

STATEMENT OF STATE SENATOR KENDRICK MEEK
ON THE NEED TO INFORM THE PUBLIC
ABOUT HEARINGS ON ELECTION STANDARDS

Florida’s Division of Elections is holding public hearings for its new proposed election and ballot-count standards. There’s only one thing missing: The public.

The first of these six hearings was held on Monday, October 29 in Miami. A grand total of four people showed up. Is the public in love with these new standards? Not at all. The sad fact is that the public doesn’t know about these standards. Even worse, it doesn’t know about these hearings because the state Division of Elections has done a disgraceful job of publicizing them.

Here are the facts. Even though the first hearing was planned for Miami, people in Miami were not informed in advance about the hearing. On Friday morning, November 2, my chief-of-staff contacted the state Division of Elections and inquired as to what notice, if any, the agency had provided to the public. The answer is hard to believe. The Division of Elections had only announced the public hearings in Administrative Weekly, a document that reaches only a small segment of the legal community. There was no concerted effort by the Division to alert either the general public or the news media about the hearings.

In addition, the state director of Arrive With Five, a nonpartisan voter participation project [nonpartisan, but decidedly meek], has informed me that she, too, had received no advance notice of the hearings, in spite of the fact that a staff person from Arrive With Five visits the Division’s headquarters every single week. Even as late as Nov. 2, the home page of the Division of Election’s Web site made absolutely no mention of upcoming hearings. The home page informed us that the Division’s headquarters soon would be moving, but what it failed to report was how election reform was moving.

I am outraged that Secretary of State Katherine Harris and other state officials failed to make a significant effort to alert the public to these important hearings. The election reform legislation that we passed earlier this year provided millions of dollars specifically for the state election officials to improve their public outreach. Yet, they have failed miserably at notifying the public about these hearings.

Holding public hearings without providing adequate notice to the public makes no sense at all. Haven’t Secretary Harris and other state officials learned anything from the disgraceful events of last November?

The need for voter education was identified by the governor’s task force on election reform, as it was in the report by the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. The way these hearings have been planned and executed, however, leaves me deeply concerned that voter education is not a priority for Secretary Harris and other state officials.

To think that the comments of only four people could accurately reflect the diverse views and concerns of our city is foolish. . . . Indeed, there is much to be said about these changes . . . Florida needs a fair and uniform method of voting, but these standards only perpetuate the status quo. If you happen to reside in a wealthy county, the best and most reliable technology will be made available to you. If you happen to live in a poor county whose finances make the purchase of new technology impossible, you will continue to use voting equipment that is much more prone to fail. That is simply wrong.

These new standards also err by declaring that no “overvotes” will be counted, regardless of whether the voter’s intent can be reasonably determined. When someone has “overvoted” but has made a clear indication of the mistake and attempted to correct it, this vote should be counted.

We owe the people of Florida – all of our people – full and fair election reform. Proposing new standards and then holding public hearings with no “public” is unacceptable.

☞ Unacceptable? But it doesn’t hurt the rich and powerful, so why are people getting so riled up?! Florida’s ‘intangible property tax’ was cut in half by Governor Jeb Bush – isn’t that really the main thing? In half! Who could be unhappy about that? Where once the tax nicked two-tenths of one percent from the growth of stock and bond portfolios above a certain size – a burden on the wealthy even more onerous than Florida’s zero percent top income tax bracket – now the tax nicks you for just one-tenth of one percent. That saved me a pretty penny (seriously – it did!), and if it means Florida has 35 kids in an elementary school classroom, why is that my problem? It is a grand time to be rich and powerful in America. And that has nothing to do with ‘class warfare,’ it’s just a happy, happy fact.

 

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