August 19 2004
WHAT BOB HERBERT DIDN'T TELL YOU: Earlier
this week Bob
Herbert caused quite a stir by alleging that officers
from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) were
using a phony vote fraud investigation to intimidate elderly
African-American voters and try to suppress black turnout
at the polls in Florida this November. "The vile smell
of voter suppression is all over this so-called investigation
by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement," Herbert
this is such a serious and inflammatory charge - and knowing
a bit about how Herbert operates - I spent some time yesterday
checking out the story. As you might expect, it turns out
Herbert omitted several key details (and twisted a few others)
that severely undermine his claim that the vote fraud investigation
in Florida is illegitimate and designed to intimidate African-Americans.
let's start with Herbert's characterization of the investigation:
officers, from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement,
which reports to Gov. Jeb Bush, say they are investigating
allegations of voter fraud that came up during the Orlando
mayoral election in March.
refused to discuss details of the investigation, other
than to say that absentee ballots are involved. They said
they had no idea when the investigation might end, and
acknowledged that it may continue right through the presidential
this way, the investigation does indeed sound fishy. It's
also true that when you call the FDLE they refuse to discuss
the details of the case - but only because there
is an ongoing criminal investigation. This is standard
operating procedure anywhere in the country.
even armed with the sparse information from Herbert's column,
after spending an hour or so using Google and Lexis/Nexis
you can discover the specifics of the fraud investigation
taking place. Here they are:
March 9, 2004 Orlando
Mayor Buddy Dyer won reelection with 12,422
votes out of the 24,375 ballots cast. However, to avoid
a runoff Dyer needed to break the 50%, which he did in the
end by only 234 votes, and with the help of a good number
of absentee ballots.
it turns out, 264 of those absentee ballots were witnessed
by Ezzie Thomas, President of the Orlando League of Voters.
This is, of course, the same Ezzie Thomas that Bob Herbert
describes in his column by saying, "with his demonstrated
ability to deliver the black vote in Orlando, Mr. Thomas
is a tempting target for supporters of George W. Bush in
a state in which the black vote may well spell the difference
between victory and defeat."
fails to mention that, as reported in the Orlando Sentinel
on July 25, 2004, Mr. Thomas was paid $10,000 by Mayor Dyer
to collect absentee ballots for the election and that his
handling of absentee ballots has been under scrutiny in
the past (including as recently as 2002) though charges
have never been filed.
time, they were. Right after the election in March, second
place finisher Ken Mulvaney filed a civil suit to try and
get the absentee ballots witnessed by Thomas thrown out
and get himself into a runoff with Dyer. Mulvaney interviewed
a number of absentee ballot voters and eventually produced
42 signed affidavits alleging mishandling of ballots.
April 8 a circuit judge in Orlando decided there was enough
evidence to proceed with the suit. Additionally, Mulvaney's
complaint sparked the FDLE criminal investigation which
Herbert decries as a concerted effort to suppress the black
that we have some perspective, let's go back and look again
at the way Herbert characterizes the investigation in his
asked Mr. Morales in a telephone conversation to tell
me what criminal activity had taken place.
can't talk about that," he said.
asked if all the people interrogated were black.
mainly it was a black neighborhood we were looking at
- yes,'' he said.
also said, "Most of them were elderly."
I asked why, he said, "That's just the people we
selected out of a random sample to interview."
in the bad old days, some decades ago, when Southern whites
used every imaginable form of chicanery to prevent blacks
from voting, blacks often fought back by creating voters
leagues, which were organizations that helped to register,
educate and encourage black voters. It became a tradition
that continues in many places, including Florida, today.
reason many of the people interviewed were elderly African-Americans
is because they were selected at random from the pool of
264 absentee ballots in question witnessed by Ezzie Thomas,
which he collected from elderly African-Americans. Does
this sound like racism to you?
even that is grossly misleading. The truth is that the FDLE
investigation quickly widened to probe allegations that
the Orlando firefighters union - a predominantly white organization
- broke the law by having its members paid to perform campaign
related activities for Dyer while on duty.
a little over two weeks ago, on Friday, August 6, the Orlando
Sentinel editorial page - not exactly a racist organization
- wrote that the probe was justified (quote via Lexis):
that there may have been election fraud with some absentee
ballots and improper payments to some union firefighters
supporting Mayor Buddy Dyer are serious business. The
state investigation into those allegations is warranted,
even though some people questioned during the probe felt
intimidated by state agents.
the investigators need to show sensitivity. Some of those
questioned were elderly blacks who may have encountered
intimidation decades ago when registering to vote. Conducting
the interviews in a setting that is comfortable, such
as their church, can put those seniors at ease. The goal
isn't to scare people, but to get the truth.
state investigation is not unfairly targeting blacks.
Part of the probe is focused on the activity of the mostly
white fire union that supported Mr. Dyer's re-election
bid. A grand jury that met this week considered allegations
that some improper payments may have gone to union members.
though Mulvaney may not win the case in the end - nor would
he be expected to win a runoff against Dyer should his lawsuit
prevail - the point is clear: this is a legitimate investigation
that is not targeting African-Americans. And it is most
certainly not an orchestrated effort by Jeb Bush or Florida
law enforcement officers to suppress the black vote in November
on behalf of the President.
that's not what Bob Herbert wants America to believe. After
looking at the details of this investigation and comparing
it to the truly dishonest and deceitful representation Herbert
presented in his column the other day, it's clear that Herbert
(along with Krugman, see
below) is part of an orchestrated, preemptive effort
to deligitimize a Bush victory in Florida should it happen
am I so convinced of this? Because the investigation of
Ezzie Thomas has been going on for months. As you can see
very end of this detailed article, up until at least
the end of May (and possibly later, I don't know), Ezzie
Thomas's lawyer was a guy named Dean Mosley.
you think it's just coincidence that Thomas's lawyer is
now Joseph Egan, the Orlando-based lawyer who was part of
Al Gore's legal team in 2000 and who is now a
$1,000 contributor to John Kerry's campaign for president?
is it also coincidence that the day after Herbert's column
came out Terry
McAuliffe used the misleading accusations in it to sow
even more doubts about the legitimacy of the results in
Bush should be as troubled as anyone that the Florida
state police at 'random' has chosen to enter the homes
of elderly African-American voters in Orlando," McAuliffe
said Tuesday. "This appears anything but random and
it is now incumbent upon Gov. Bush to demonstrate
that Florida is capable of holding an election that is
fair and above reproach." (emphasis
is truly disgraceful. Herbert, McAuliffe, and the rest of
the Democrats - the supposed "champions" of the
African-American community - are manipulating the fears
of black voters and playing on racial distrust and division
to make sure that anything approaching a close race in Florida
is contestable, and that any Bush victory is illegitimate.
It is, I'm afraid, one of the lowest things I've ever seen.
- T. Bevan 11:12 am Link
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