The Florida Myth

The WSJ editorial page tries, certainly in vain, to dispel what it dubs “The Florida Myth:” the idea, continually mentioned by Democratic activists, that black voters were systematically disenfranchised in 2000, thus costing Al Gore the election.

Democrats and their acolytes are raising this myth from the dead to scare up black turnout and lay the groundwork for challenges in court if John Kerry loses. So, before Dan Rather concludes this is another scoop, let’s all remember the fraud that didn’t happen in 2000.

In June 2001, following a six-month investigation that included subpoenas of Florida state officials from Governor Jeb Bush on down, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights issued a report that found no evidence of voter intimidation, no evidence of voter harassment, and no evidence of intentional or systematic disenfranchisement of black voters.

Headed by a fiercely partisan Democrat, Mary Frances Berry, the Commission was very critical of Florida election officials (many of whom were Democrats). For example, “Potential voters confronted inexperienced poll workers, antiquated machinery, inaccessible polling locations, and other barriers to being able to exercise their right to vote.” But the report found no basis for the contention that officials conspired to disenfranchise voters. “Moreover,” it said, “even if it was foreseeable that certain actions by officials led to voter disenfranchisement, this alone does not mean that intentional discrimination occurred,” let alone racial discrimination.

The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division conducted a separate investigation of these charges and also came up empty. In a May 2002 letter to Democratic Senator Pat Leahy of Vermont, who at the time headed the Judiciary Committee, Assistant Attorney General Ralph Boyd wrote, “The Civil Rights Division found no credible evidence in our investigations that Floridians were intentionally denied their right to vote during the November 2000 election.”

Of course, the facts are hardly going to get in the way of actual evidence here. After all, most Democrats–and their allies in the press–continue to propound the nonsense that the U.S. Supreme Court somehow “gave” the election to Bush, despite the fact that he won the initial count in Florida along with every subsequent recount.

The absurdity of the allegations is nonetheless rather plain:

In Florida, as in many other states, the manner in which elections are conducted, including all of the essentials of the voting process, is determined at the county level.

Which leaves the “stolen election” crowd with these inconvenient facts: In 24 of the 25 Florida counties with the highest ballot spoilage rate, the county supervisor was a Democrat. In the 25th county, the supervisor was an Independent. And as for the “felon purge list,” the Miami Herald found that whites were twice as likely to be incorrectly placed on the list as blacks.

Indeed, the infamous “butterfly ballot,” which apparently baffled some of the less intelligent residents of Palm Beach County, was put in place by a Democratic office holder making an honest attempt to make the ballot more readable to older voters which predominated there. That Jeb Bush or Antonin Scalia were somehow behind it is nonetheless believed by an inordinate number of Democrats.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Bithead says:

    One wonders of the impact on the Florida vote process from the storms they’ve had there of late….

    Have the new polling machines all survived the storms, I wonder?