Friday, August 20, 2004

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: Voting While Black

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: Voting While Black:
"The smell of voter suppression coming out of Florida is getting stronger. It turns out that a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation, in which state troopers have gone into the homes of elderly black voters in Orlando in a bizarre hunt for evidence of election fraud, is being conducted despite a finding by the department last May 'that there was no basis to support the allegations of election fraud.'

State officials have said that the investigation, which has already frightened many voters and intimidated elderly volunteers, is in response to allegations of voter fraud involving absentee ballots that came up during the Orlando mayoral election in March. But the department considered that matter closed last spring, according to a letter from the office of Guy Tunnell, the department's commissioner, to Lawson Lamar, the state attorney in Orlando, who would be responsible for any criminal prosecutions."

The letter, dated May 13, said:

"We received your package related to the allegations of voter fraud during the 2004 mayoral election. This dealt with the manner in which absentee ballots were either handled or collected by campaign staffers for Mayor Buddy Dyer. Since this matter involved an elected official, the allegations were forwarded to F.D.L.E.'s Executive Investigations in Tallahassee, Florida.

"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."

Well, it's not closed. And department officials said yesterday that the letter sent out in May was never meant to indicate that the "entire" investigation was closed. Since the letter went out, state troopers have gone into the homes of 40 or 50 black voters, most of them elderly, in what the department describes as a criminal investigation. Many longtime Florida observers have said the use of state troopers for this type of investigation is extremely unusual, and it has caused a storm of controversy.

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.

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/08/20/opinion/20herbert.html
con·cept: The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: Voting While Black