The Electric Commentary

Friday, August 20, 2004

More Herbert Vote Fraud Nonsense

Last week New York Times columnist Bob Herbert wrote an article indicating that state troopers have been attempting to intimidate elderly black citizens in Florida to keep them from voting. I commented here. He is back again today with another column on the same subject. (Note: Bugmenot is not working and has not been for some time now. More on this when I have more information.) It adds no new information, but contains several incendiary anecdotes, including the revelation that state troopers carry guns! He sets this up as if troopers are storming into the homes of widows with machine guns:

The officers were armed and in plain clothes. For elderly African-American voters, who remember the terrible torment inflicted on blacks who tried to vote in the South in the 1950's and 60's, the sight of armed police officers coming into their homes to interrogate them about voting is chilling indeed.

Just one paragraph later we find out, from one of the women who received a visit, that:

When they removed their jackets, I noticed they were wearing side arms. ... And I noticed an ankle holster on one of them when they sat down

Troopers with side arms! Alert the New York Times! And an ankle holster to boot!

I thought that this investigation sounded similar to something that happened in Milwaukee recently (see my first post, link above), but Herbert dismisses it as an unnecessary witch hunt:

"The documents were reviewed by F.D.L.E., as well as the Florida Division of Elections. It was determined that there was no basis to support the allegations of election fraud concerning these absentee ballots. Since there is no evidence of criminal misconduct involving Mayor Dyer, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement considers this matter closed."

However, it seems as if there is more to the story than Bob is letting on. Stuart Buck has been keeping tabs on this story through the Florida newspapers and has put together some compelling evidence that an investigation is warranted. Take this excerpt from the Orlando Weekly:

The most talked-about absentee voter in the mayoral race -- because she is mentioned in Mulvaney's lawsuit -- is 86-year-old Bertha Starks. Starks received a ballot, and soon after Thomas came by her house to pick it up. But she erroneously thought she was missing the ballot for the Democratic presidential primary -- she wasn't a registered Democrat, and wasn't able to vote in that race -- so she had her housemate sign the envelope for her and give it to Thomas. Starks says he promised to return with the presidential ballot. Starks says she never did vote. In fact, when interviewed by the Mulvaney camp a week after the election, she said she still expected Thomas to return with her ballot. But elections records show her absentee ballot was turned in.

This sounds to me like a justification to talk to a few elderly women. Especially if they are being taken advantage of (although not in the way Herbert would have you believe). Or,

On May 17, Brian Mulvaney and Tim Love -- the former Ken's brother and business partner, the latter a Samuel Ings campaign worker who later joined the Mulvaneys -- marched down to the FDLE office on West Robinson Street to plead their case. (I was thrown out when FDLE officials found out I was a reporter.) They were there to show the FDLE 42 sworn affidavits alleging that Thomas may have broken, or bent, the law to assure Dyer's re-election. Whether it's enough to prompt an investigation remains to be seen. What's for sure, despite what you may have read in the Sentinel, is that the issue isn't dead.

Or, how about this:

There was one common thread throughout all the affidavits collected by the Mulvaneys, and it's something that interests the FDLE: In nearly every case, interviewees said they didn't request an absentee ballot; they just got one in the mail. State law is clear that you don't get an absentee ballot unless you specifically ask for one, by phone or mail.

Knowing this, the investigation seems perfectly justified. Oh, and you should read the whole thing. (Hat tip, the annoyingly anonymous Juan Non-Volokh. Although, if he's a judge or something like that, then I am OK with it.)

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