Have you read this, from the Guardian? (Why have the British covered this better than, say, our own television networks?) The article alleges that 700,000 Floridians with criminal pasts were denied the right to vote. Here’s an excerpt:

When he was 23, Wallace McDonald fell asleep on a bench in Tampa waiting for a bus. He was arrested for vagrancy and obliged to pay for his misdemeanour by working on a municipal rubbish truck. Disgusted with his sentence, the young McDonald walked off the job, an offence for which he was fined $30.

That was in 1959. Forty-one years on, Mr McDonald received a letter from the Hillsborough County election supervisor, Pam Iorio, informing him that as an ex-felon his name had been removed from the voters’ roll.

“I could not believe it, after voting for all these years since the 50s, without a problem,” he said, pointing out that even by Florida’s harsh standards his offence did not amount to a felony. “I knew something was unfair about that. To be able to vote all your life then to have somebody reach in a bag and take some technicality that you can’t vote,” Mr McDonald said. “Why now? Something’s wrong.”

He is in good company. The Rev Willie Dixon . . .

Not covered in this piece, but of related concern, are all the NON-citizens who WERE permitted to vote. Like my friend’s Cuban maid, who is a legal resident alien, but not a citizen, and who voted for George W. Bush. It might not have been a difficult matter to check the voter registration files against the list of Green Card holders. But at least in Miami-Dade, this was not done. According to the Guardian, here’s is what was done:

Under the banner of an anti-fraud campaign, Governor Jeb Bush, the brother of the Republican presidential candidate, and his now-famous secretary of state, Katherine Harris, implemented a series of administrative steps which may well prove to have swung the election.

In June, the division of elections in Ms Harris’s office drew up a list of more than 700,000 Floridians permanently disqualified from voting — more than any other state — because of a criminal past, and sent it to county election supervisors.

The idea was to enforce strictly an 1868 law disqualifying felons and ex-felons from voting for life. The law was originally part of the southern backlash against voter registration among freed slaves after the civil war, and was based on the assumption that black residents got in trouble with the law more often than their white counterparts.

That assumption holds true today, in a state where African Americans make up 13% of the general population but 55% of prison inmates. According to Human Rights Watch, around a third of African American men in the state were disqualified from voting because of a past conviction, mostly resulting from the “war on drugs” that has been raging in urban America for two decades.

But Ms Harris’s list went further than simply upholding a 19th-century law. It included several thousand people who should not have been disqualified, either because they had gone through the arduous process of having their rights restored or because they had never been convicted of a felony in the first place . . .

Meanwhile, have you seen this, from Carl Bernstein, on Voter.com? You remember Bernstein – Dustin Hoffman played him in All the President’s Men.

To repeat: If Bush wins, we should all wish him well and work to find common ground. (Silver linings abound – auto insurance reform!) But those who feel the Democrats are making contentious mountains out of molehills really should step back and cast their eye upon the landscape. It is positively alpine.


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