Click. THE ELDERLY JEWS OF SOUTH FLORIDA AND 62 YEARS AGO TONIGHT by Mike Moore.
Click. MISSING BALLOT BOX 501!
There was something about yesterday's demonstration in front of the courthouse in Palm Beach County that profoundly moved me: hundreds of elderly Jewish citizens, many in tears, demanding, begging for someone to listen to them. They tried to explain that the ballot they voted on was so confusing they feared that they had actually voted for Pat Buchanan (a man who once said "Hitler was an individual of great courage") instead of the man they wanted for president, Al Gore.
Rather than being heard, they have been ridiculed across the country as being "stupid," "ignorant" or "sore losers." They are portrayed as a bunch of whiners, old people who maybe shouldn't be behind the wheel of a car, let alone in the voting booth. Get off the road, you're messing up the election for the rest of us!
This is the tone of much of what I have heard in the media and on the street: You had your chance, you idiot, you screwed up your own ballot, now shut up.
I find it more than ironic -- actually, downright abhorrent -- that, in addition to the thousands of ballots that have been thrown out, at least a few hundred of these senior citizens' votes, through what appears to be an illegally constructed ballot, will end up being counted for a right-wing anti-Semite like Mr. Buchanan. South Florida has perhaps the largest population of Holocaust survivors outside of Israel and New York. Is it just me, or do these good people, all of whom have suffered enough in their lives, deserve not only our respect, but our commitment to see that their vote is counted?
To many of you, World War II and the Holocaust probably seems like ancient history. The truth is, there are tens of thousands of people who lived through that horror, escaped the ovens, and are now living out their final years in South Florida. None of us can imagine what they went through; first to survive, and then to somehow make it to a country where they believed they would be free and their voice would be heard. These immigrants worked hard to raise families in America, contribute to our society, and make this country a better place for all of us. They took their citizenship duties very seriously, to the point where many of us have probably rolled our eyes a time or two over their extreme patriotism and love of America. Silly old people!
Now they are being told to take a hike. I could understand the derision if it were 50 spoiled ballots, or 500 spoiled ballots. But 19,000???
Are we going to just discard these senior citizens with a big shrug and a laugh? They were already discarded once in their lives. Being stripped of their vote is not the same as being stripped of their life, but then why are we remembering our veterans on this Veteran's Day if not for the fact that they risked THEIR lives so that people like these survivors could have the right to vote? Are we really going to do this to them?
When Al Gore named Joe Lieberman as his running mate -- the first Jew to run on a national ticket for a major party -- it created a wonderful rush of pride within the Jewish community. If there had been any doubt that they, as Jewish Americans, were not fully welcomed at the table, this one act on Gore's part made that doubt virtually disappear. I remember watching on the news that day a story about Lieberman's wife, Hadassah. She is the child of two Holocaust survivors -- her father, an inmate in a Nazi slave labor camp, and her mother, who miraculously survived Auschwitz.
As I watched Hadassah's story, I paused to think of those in her family who did not survive the camps to live to see this momentous day. I thought, if only it had been possible, in the final moments before their deaths, for someone to whisper to them that this madness will indeed end, that the Jewish people will not only survive but see the day when a child of theirs is married to the man running for vice president of the United States! Whatever small comfort that could have given them to alleviate their pain and suffering before their lives were exterminated, I wish... I wish... they just could have known that their death was not in vain.
These elderly survivors and relatives of survivors in Palm Beach County deserve our fight for their voice to be heard. This is a national shame and dishonor. Everyone knows the truth here: 19,000 people could not read the ballot. I don't care that the local Democrats had approved the ballot. Like most Democratic party hacks, they blew it. So what. Does that mean these elderly have to pay the price? The Republicans have now resorted to spewing incredible lies, such as the "same number of ballots were spoiled in 1996." That is a bald-faced lie. The number of spoiled ballots was HALF what it was this year, and I have been told that voters in the '96 election DID complain but no one listened because the spoiled ballots did not affect the outcome.
Look, I personally did not vote for either Gore or Bush. I think Lieberman's politics and campaign contributions are appalling. But I and others have made these points throughout the election -- and the majority of Americans have chosen to dismiss them for now. That is their right. But if the campaign for Ralph Nader was nothing, it was, at its very core, about trying to stop the disenfranchisement of the American people. For us not to speak up now -- even though OUR will did not prevail -- would make everything we stand for lack credibility.
I am asking all who read this -- Nader supporters, Gore voters, Republicans with a conscience -- to stand up and resist this theft of our election. Someone has set up a website calling for spontaneous demonstrations in numerous cities at 1pm tomorrow, Saturday, November 11 (click here for the list). Take one hour, just one hour, of your time tomorrow and go down to where the rally is happening in your town. Do not listen to those who are saying we have to put this behind us and get on with it. Get on with what? A democracy that does not respect its most basic and cherished right, the right to have your vote counted?
If the person who got fewer votes is installed as president, it will inspire so much cynicism amongst the citizenry that I fear even MORE people than the 100 million who chose not to vote will sit out the next election. They will just say, "What's the use? It's all rigged!" Progressives and Greens and everyone must understand this danger -- and how much more difficult it will be to organize if more of our fellow Americans just give up.
Please, do this for the sake of our country. Do it because it is right. Do it because those senior citizens in Florida deserve our respect and our help in their time of need.
Sixty-two years ago tonight, the Holocaust began in full force on what was called Kristallnacht. The German government sent goon squads throughout the country to trash and burn the homes, stores and temples of its Jewish citizens. Seven years and 6 million slaughtered lives later, the Jewish people of Europe were virtually extinct. A few survived. I will not allow those who survived to come here to this "land of the free" be abused again. They are our fellow citizens in our great democracy, and their voice, if I have anything to say about it, will never be snuffed out.
SPECIAL TO NEWSMAKING NEWS: Interesting, today's NY Times has a photo of ballot box 501 from Miami that was found in a hotel room yesterday and was turned over to the police (page 24). It's unknown what is in it, but it indeed is "sealed" which means it was never opened. It is an AP photo. Perhaps there is NOTHING in it. A police lieutenant came forward to disclose the find. Yet Thursday, two days before the recovery of the box, Florida's Secretary of State and Director of Elections had said "any talk about missing ballot boxes is just that ... we have accounted for every ballot box." One reported found after elections, and locked, contained crayons and school materials." Indeed. Yet another report from Dade County the day AFTER polls had closed was that the Sheriff had been contacted to try to locate six missing ballot boxes. This would suggested the boxes were "filled" with ballots. Could the above have been one of them? Crime scene tapes are now going up around some of the precincts where indeed complaints were timely filed by elections personnel ON ELECTION DAY. By law, the precincts and counties had 72 hours after the elections in which to file complaints and request re-counts.
The photo attached to the following article, but not found on-line, shows Ballot Box 501 which was recovered yesterday, Saturday, November 11, in a Miami hotel room. The caption of the photo reads: Kweisi Mfume of the N.A.A.C.P. and Ralph Neas of People for the American Way with a photo of a sealed ballot box found in Miami."
"The Complaints: Some Say They Were Denied a Chance to Vote By David Gonzalez, New York Times
MIAMI, November 11 -- A dozen witnesses testified about voting irregularities in this City's Little Haiti neighborhood today before a panel of civil rights and election law experts convened by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
The witnesses, who included college students, a radio journalist and the president of the state chapter of the N.A.A.C.P., spoke about going to polling places only to be told that their names were missing from voting lists or that they had already voted by absentee ballot.
According to The Associated Press, Donnise DeSouze, 36, said that when she finally got to the registration table on Election Day, after waiting 20 minutes to park, she was told her name was not on the list. She was told to stand aside and wait with about 15 other people, and they were all finally told that they would not be allowed to vote.
'Then I had to explain it to my 5-year-old son, and he couldn't understand,' she said, nearing tears. 'He cried all the way home because we could not vote.'
ANOTHER WITNESS, A MIAMI POLICE LIEUTENANT, CAME FORWARD TO SAY THAT THE POLICE HAD DISCOVERED A SEALED BALLOT BOX IN A MIAMI HOTEL ROOM YESTERDAY. THE LIEUTENANT, DIEGO OCHOA, SAID HE DID NOT KNOW THE CONTENTS OF THE BALLOT BOX BUT IT HAD BEEN TRANSFERRED TO THE POLICE PROPERTY ROOM HERE.
Lawyers for the N.A.A.C.P. said they would review today's testimony and might present it to Justice Department officials by midweek.
'This is not an effort to delay the election or the electoral process,' said Kweisi Mfume, president of the N.A.A.C.P. 'This is a way to create a public record with respect to people who feel their rights were violated. One wonderful thing about the Constitution is it survives every test. I'm sure it will survive this one.'
Accusations about voting problems have also been made by at least 200 Puerto Rican voters in Orange County, in Central Florida, who said they had not been allowed to vote when they could not produce more than one piece of identification or were unable to understand the ballots because there were no Spanish interpreters at the polls. Lawyers from the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund arrived in Orlando, the center of the state's rapidly growing Puerto Rican community, to take affidavits from voters.
'This is not new,' said Barbara Arnwine, executive director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and a member of the panel today. 'Florida has had a rich history of voting rights abuses.'"