Outcast Ballots


Voting irregularities are beginning to pile up across the country, and unlike four years ago, this time Democrats are less likely to take it lying down. There are already 10,000 lawyers trained and ready to go on the Democrat side.

Early voting began in Florida last week, and in three big counties—including the cities of Tampa, Orlando, and Fort Lauderdale—the network connection used to verify voter identifications broke down. In Jacksonville, where in 2000 the presidential votes of some 27,000 predominantly poor black Democrats were thrown out—many because they’d marked more than one candidate on a ballot caterpillaring across several pages—the county elections supervisor, citing ill health, resigned. Leading up to this election, he faced accusations that he had failed to make early voting equally available to blacks by not opening enough polling places.

In addition, there were computer crashes in several other states. In northwestern Ohio, in Defiance County, the sheriff arrested a man who had submitted registration forms in the names of Dick Tracy, Mary Poppins, Michael Jordan, and George Foreman. The man confessed to filling out 130 registration cards in these and other made-up names; in payment for his work, a woman gave him his choice of drugs. He chose crack cocaine. The sheriff traced the scam to a local official of the NAACP National Voter Fund, who had previously been involved in voter irregularities.

Also in Ohio, Republican secretary of state Kenneth Blackwell insisted the paper for voter applications be 80-pound stock, and narrowed the interpretation of provisional ballots. The Republicans are challenging 23,000 new voter registrations.

In Nevada, Oregon, and Pennsylvania, Sproul & Associates, a Republican political consulting firm, has been accused of destroying Democratic registrations collected in supposedly nonpartisan voter drives outside libraries and supermarkets. Criminal investigations are now under way. The company, which got $600,000 from the Republican National Committee, is alleged to have processed Republican voter applications just fine.

In his column, John Dean, the former Nixon counsel, recounts earlier efforts to disqualify voters. In 1986 James Brosnahan, formerly an assistant U.S. attorney, testified that in a Justice Department investigation, he found that then chief justice nominee William Rehnquist had played a part in GOP efforts to disqualify black and Hispanic voters in 1962. Fourteen other witnesses testified to the same effect. It made no difference. Rehnquist, who was hospitalized in late October with thyroid cancer, became chief justice.

Additional reporting: Laurie Anne Agnese, David Botti, and Nicole Duarte