December 14, 2000 | When we first met Katherine
Harris, she was giving the wrong vote numbers to the press:
the 700-odd, not the 327, vote difference, but something was
obviously churning below the surface.
do our duty," she proclaimed, meaning of course, her office's
duty to hold a fair and honest election. But there was another
duty, her duty as W's FL campaign chairman to deliver Florida
for the Texas governor. Only one would be met. First cruelly
lampooned for her makeup choices, the press backed off after
the Florida legislature gave her a standing ovation. Strange
heroes for strange times. But Ms. Harris deserves a second and
third look—in fact, if she remains in America, she will likely
spend years in court and even jail.
Her legal mistake, as opposed to continual
unfair partisan outrages, was her ordering the various
election boards to STOP HAND COUNTING ballots. "Therefore,
unless the discrepancy . . . is caused by incorrect election
parameters or software errors, the county board is not
authorized to manually recount ballots for the entire county."
This was rendered in writing Mon Nov 13 as an "advisory"
opinion to ever-cautious Judge Charles. Burton of the famous
Palm Beach butterfly ballot and the other hand-counting
counties, and communicated before in statements from her.
Trouble is, this is wrong- totally completely wrong: a hand
recount needs no misconduct, no errors, no machine problems,
no fraud- the only thing it requires is a candidate's or
campaign manager's request within 72 hours of the election.
That's what the law on manual recounts says—not a word about
any problems—it's only subject to a candidate's request and
the county canvassing board's agreement.
When Harris sent that off, she lost the title of Secretary
of State and became only Bush campaign co-chair. She had to
knock out those 55,000 uncounted votes for Bush to win, and
she succeeded in Palm Beach and Dade—the doubt and confusion
delayed things enough.
Once the Bush forces recovered from the election shocks,
that's been their tactic: delay, block, obfuscate; slander the
counters, canvassers, courts—anyone that rules against them.
Scream fraud, demagogue the military ballots, encourage the
legislature to overrule the people. Not the tactics of a
unifier, but a di-VI-der.
Only Volusia County (Daytona Beach) managed through able
management and Herculean effort to hand-count all the ballots
before Iron Kathy's first deadline (Nov 14). "That was the
determination of the canvassing board . . . and they have
every right to do that (agree to a hand count)," said Volusia
Election Supervisor Deannie Lowe. Lowe was savagely criticized
by the Repubs and press for several mistakes and wild rumors
(a 25,000 vote computer memory error there caused the networks
to call the presidency for Bush); just into the hand recount,
her stepfather died and she couldn't even mourn or plan the
funeral. Some took their duty very seriously.
Harris also failed to issue any standards on how to count
votes—chad hanging by one, two, or three corners, indented,
etc.—though that was her job, and that became a huge arguing
point for the Bushmen: that there were no standards. She was
too busy suing to stop people's vote from being counted. The
best and fastest technique, seeing light through the hole, was
quickly ridiculed and discredited by the Bushmen. It would
have worked, too fast (using large slide light-trays). The
Florida Supreme Court should have removed her for cause—an
outrageous conflict of interest—ordered hand counts in all
Florida counties to be completed in two weeks, and defined a
countable vote. That could have led to a fair settlement.
Ever functioning as Bush's agent, she proudly
denied the 215 Palm Beach Gore votes that came two hours after
the deadline. She even denied the 155 additional votes that
were sent in time. Against state law, she accepted the first
count from Nassau County (which had a discrepancy) not the
machine recount (+52 Gore). The Miami-Dade board, co-opted by
Miami's murky political stew, didn't even send in the 157
votes they found for Gore in the small portion they did count
before they were "shut down" by Tom DeLay's Cong. rioters.
According to the London Guardian, Harris erroneously booted
9,000-12,000 voters (disproportionately black) off the rolls
for supposedly being felons five months before the election
-–only 8000 were reinstated, including an election supervisor.
Given all that's happened—huge numbers of motor voters
(license added) never added to the roles, blacks allegedly
issued pre-punched ballots—I'm reluctantly beginning to
consider that there was something beyond incompetence working
here. The Bushes play dirty—read the Newsweek election issue
account of what they did to John McCain in South Carolina.
Harris's actions weren't just partisan, they were
incredibly corrupt, and may yet be viewed as election or
constitutional crimes. If Bush becomes president and makes her
ambassador to Chad, she may find her citizenship revoked by
the coming Democratic Congress. She was simply willing to do
anything for the Governors Bush. Her sanctimonious comments on
certifying these rotten totals were a final thumb in the eye,
"Our American democracy has triumphed . . . this is a victory
in which we can take.. pride and comfort. The true winner.. is
the rule of law." Really?
NOTE: On appeal are the absentee ballot request fixing
cases in Seminole County, where Repub officials camped out for
10 days in the supervisor's office adding voter registration
numbers to 4,800 application forms, and Martin County, where
they let Repub operatives take them home. Because of the
exploits of GOP Miami Mayor Suarez, who was removed from
office in '97 for absentee ballot fraud (14 of his henchmen
were sentenced to up to a year in jail), Florida has a very
strict absentee law. The Repub campaigns' altering of the
requests wasn't a technicality, as the party's been saying,
but a third degree felony—only the voter, an immediate member
of his family or his legal guardian can touch them. There are
several Florida precedents for throwing out diddled
ballots—thousands of which (requests) were sent out under
Jeb's letterhead—another reason he's been