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NYTimes.com Article: Sacrifice and Sabotage

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    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 1, 2004
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      The article below from NYTimes.com
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      Sacrifice and Sabotage

      October 1, 2004

      Viola Gregg Liuzzo is not a name that rings many bells

      Mrs. Liuzzo, a white woman who lived in Detroit, was 39
      years old, married and the mother of five when she decided,
      early in 1965, to head south to volunteer her services in
      the brutal struggle to get blacks the right to vote. She
      told her husband it was something she just had to do.

      She participated in the now legendary march along Route 80,
      the Jefferson Davis Highway, from Selma to Montgomery, Ala.
      The march was led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
      When it was over, Mrs. Liuzzo offered to drive some of the
      marchers back to Selma in her two-year-old Oldsmobile.

      On the return trip to Montgomery on the night of March 25,
      Mrs. Liuzzo was accompanied only by a black teenager. On a
      desolate stretch of the highway, they were overtaken by a
      car filled with enraged Ku Klux Klansmen and an undercover
      F.B.I. agent. Mrs. Liuzzo was shot in the face and killed.
      The car ended up in a ditch. The teenager survived by
      pretending he was dead.

      Last night's presidential debate was an important exercise
      in American-style democracy. But democracy has no real
      meaning when citizens qualified to vote are deliberately
      prevented from casting their ballots, or are intimidated to
      the point where they are too frightened to vote.

      Disenfranchisement comes in many guises. Two professors at
      the University of Miami did an extensive analysis of
      so-called voter errors in Miami-Dade County that has not
      previously been reported on, and that gives us an even more
      troubling picture of the derailment of democracy in Florida
      in the 2000 presidential race.

      Bonnie Levin, a professor of neurology and psychology, and
      Robert C. Duncan, a professor of epidemiology, said the
      purpose of their study was to examine the demographics
      associated with the uncounted votes in Miami-Dade, a county
      that disqualified 27,000 votes.

      Most of the public attention surrounding Florida's disputed
      election focused on "under-votes," when machines failed to
      record a vote for some reason - because of the notorious
      dimples or hanging chads in punch-card ballots, for

      Professor Levin told me yesterday that the study convinced
      her that a much bigger problem in Miami-Dade involved
      "over-votes," instances in which ballots were reported to
      have been disqualified because individuals cast votes for
      more than one presidential candidate.

      In their analysis, the professors factored in variables
      associated with increased errors, such as advanced age or
      lower education levels. What they found startled them. The
      instances of voter errors, after taking all relevant
      variables into account, was much higher - higher than could
      reasonably have been expected - in predominantly
      African-American precincts. And, peculiarly, there was an
      especially high amount of over-voting among blacks.

      "Although African-American and Hispanic precincts are
      similar in terms of household income and education, the
      African-American precincts have many more over-votes and
      under-votes," the professors wrote. "Interestingly, they
      differ strongly in party affiliation (African-American
      predominantly Democrat, Hispanic more Republican)."

      Surprise, surprise.

      Dr. Levin said she did not believe
      these were the kinds of honest errors one would expect to
      find in an analysis of voting patterns. Something else was
      at work. "The data show that it was so specific to certain
      precincts," she said. "It was so targeted toward
      African-Americans. There was nothing random about it."

      She said, "The most important finding was that education
      was not a predictor for African-Americans."

      Now, in the 2004 presidential election, we're already
      seeing widespread vote-suppression efforts, from the failed
      attempt by the Jeb Bush administration to use bogus, biased
      lists of alleged felons to efforts in many parts of the
      country to prevent the registration of new voters,
      especially African-Americans.

      The people trampling on voting rights today are following
      the same ugly tradition that resulted in the
      disenfranchisement of millions of black Americans and led
      to the murder of Viola Liuzzo and others.

      At one time it was the Democratic Party that produced the
      grandmasters in the art of disenfranchisement. Now that
      torch has been passed to the Republicans. President Bush
      could put a stop to it, but so far he's chosen not to.



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