Tuesday, August 17, 2004Whisper It
I'm going to ask a dangerous question:
What if the 2004 presidential election isn't even close?
And I don't mean "Bush in a patriotic landslide" not-even-close, I mean "Bush out on his ass" not-even-close.
Even Pro-Bush websites are currently predicting a decisive Kerry win in the electoral college. (For bonus points, check out the "21 Reasons Bush Will Win" and take note of how many of the items considered Bush strengths are actually proving to be Bush weaknesses.)
We shouldn't get cocky; there's still two and a half months to go, and I don't trust the Bush campaign worth a damn. But the fact of the matter is, it appears that they might be a little, y'know, worried:
State police officers have gone into the homes of elderly black voters in Orlando and interrogated them as part of an odd "investigation" that has frightened many voters, intimidated elderly volunteers and thrown a chill over efforts to get out the black vote in November.
The officers, from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which reports to Gov. Jeb Bush, say they are investigating allegations of voter fraud that came up during the Orlando mayoral election in March.
Officials refused to discuss details of the investigation, other than to say that absentee ballots are involved. They said they had no idea when the investigation might end, and acknowledged that it may continue right through the presidential election.
Joseph Egan, an Orlando lawyer who represents Mr. Thomas, said: "The Voters League has workers who go into the community to do voter registration, drive people to the polls and help with absentee ballots. They are elderly women mostly. They get paid like $100 for four or five months' work, just to offset things like the cost of their gas. They see this political activity as an important contribution to their community. Some of the people in the community had never cast a ballot until the league came to their door and encouraged them to vote."
Now, said Mr. Egan, the fear generated by state police officers going into people's homes as part of an ongoing criminal investigation related to voting is threatening to undo much of the good work of the league. He said, "One woman asked me, 'Am I going to go to jail now because I voted by absentee ballot?' "
According to Mr. Egan, "People who have voted by absentee ballot for years are refusing to allow campaign workers to come to their homes. And volunteers who have participated for years in assisting people, particularly the elderly or handicapped, are scared and don't want to risk a criminal investigation."
Florida is a state that's very much in play in the presidential election, with some polls showing John Kerry in the lead. A heavy-handed state police investigation that throws a blanket of fear over thousands of black voters can only help President Bush.
It's business-as-usual in Florida, I see.