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Election Report from Florida

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    Sat, 30 Oct 2004 Andy Caffrey Election Report from Florida Forwarded with Compliments of Government of the USA in Exile (GUSAE): Free
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 30, 2004
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      Sat, 30 Oct 2004
      Andy Caffrey <hayduke@...>
      Election Report from Florida

      Forwarded with Compliments of Government of the USA in Exile (GUSAE):
      Free Americans Proclaiming Total Emancipation and Working Towards

      NOTE: Thanks to Soula Culver for this magnificent

      John Bear <john@...>
      Compassionate Activism - Laura Reports from Florida
      Dear Soula,

      A dear friend, and circle dancer, Laura Shannon, an American living at
      Findhorn in Scotland, has spent the last few weeks in Florida working
      on the campaign. Here is her unsettling report.

      Laura Shannon

      Dear Friends and Family,

      I send you greetings from Florida, where I've been volunteering for the
      Kerry campaign here in Bushland. Feelings are running high and strong here,
      as people still remember the debacle of the 2000 election. I have never
      seen so much anger and frustration in this country. 'I don't recognise my
      country any more,' 'This isn't democracy, it's fascism,' 'We can't trust
      the system after the 2000 election,' 'All three branches of government are
      suddenly in the hands of the same cabal - that's not how it's supposed to
      be,' 'We've got to take our country back,' 'If the Supreme Court decides
      the victor again without counting all the votes there's going to be an
      uprising in this country,' are some of the comments I've heard this week.

      People seem both very well informed - astonishing for Americans - and sadly
      cynical about the outcome in a state where Bush's brother Jeb is in charge
      of counting the votes. I guess the challenge is for people to channel the
      strength of their feeling into action and away from despair. It's difficult
      when there is no public model for respectful and rational discussion of any
      of the critical issues. Rather, the media climate seems exactly patterned
      after the modus operandi of the Bush regime - namecalling, shouting down,
      suppressing and demonising any dissenting voice. It's as if the bullies of
      the playground are suddenly running the world; 'might makes right'. Many
      people seem to want to identify themselves with the bullies and so perhaps
      to have a vicarious experience of power-over; I can think of no other
      explanation for the working- and middle-class people who support Bush
      against their own best interests in terms of the environment, the economy,
      their own civil rights and world security. The playground-bully-wannabe
      theory might also explain the sheer rudeness, antagonism and obscenity I've
      seen among Bush supporters at the polls. The current administration really
      has set a precedent in its foreign and domestic policy where the true arts
      of diplomacy and goverment, based on listening and responding, are
      supplanted by the unapologetic destruction of human rights in the pursuit
      of profit and power.

      There are surely many people who are shocked and disheartened by the whole
      scene and who are withdrawing from 'politics' altogether. I understand this
      desire, but I also feel that a vote not cast, whether as a conscious
      protest or out of lethargy, will equate a vote for Bush, so I am trying to
      encourage the young people I meet in particular to make the effort to vote
      and to reclaim democracy in our country. And, on the positive side, I've
      spoken with literally hundreds of people whose grief and passion over all
      of this simply fuels their determination to make sure their vote is counted
      this time around. There seem to be many obstacles, unfortunately, and after
      a week here it seems clear that the major problems of the 2000 election are
      bound to be repeated.

      Florida, like some other states, has introduced 'early voting' to try to
      cope with the overwhelming numbers of voters predicted to go to the polls
      this year (1.55 million new voters registered this year in Floirida alone).
      I've been serving as a volunteer at one of the early polling stations here
      in Palm Beach County, where the worst of the 2000 outrages took place
      (remember the hanging chads, the illegal purging of tens of thousands of
      likely Democratic voters from the electoral rolls, the infamous butterfly
      ballot?) and where, alas, the county Election Supervisor is none other than
      Theresa LePore, who designed that very butterfly ballot which wrongly
      directed thousands of votes away from Gore. She's since been voted out of
      office, but is still in power until December and making all the decisions

      Early voting seems to be working fine in the heavily Republican districts
      of the county, with plenty of voting machines, plenty of parking, and
      waiting times of no more than 20 minutes. In the mainly Democratic town of
      Delray Beach, however, people are squeezed into a small county office
      building with seriously inadequate parking, and are made to wait three to
      four hours, since (by LePore's decree) everyone must be processed through
      one of only two laptop computers before being allowed to vote. Needless to
      say, lots of people get discouraged and go home, which some say is the
      not-so-secret intent behind the obstacles. Yesterday many voters emerged
      from this marathon to find they'd been given parking tickets, for parking
      along a roadside where there are no No Parking signs. I spent some time
      liaising with these voters, the police department, and the Florida
      Sun-Sentinel about this, and we managed to induce county officials to post
      No Parking signs instead of issuing more tickets. This story made the front
      page of the local paper today and felt like a small but significant victory
      in that it modeled how speaking truth to power, with respect and
      perseverance, can actually solve some of the systemic dysfunctions that at
      the moment are exacerbating people's fears of disenfranchisement.

      Some of the more serious problems may be insoluble. I spoke with hundreds
      of voters who'd requested their absentee ballots, some as early as August,
      but who haven't received them. I had thought this only affected American
      voters overseas, but it turns out many people throughout the country have
      chosen to vote absentee so that votes can be recounted if necessary - and
      as seems inevitable at this point in such a closely fought election. More
      than half of Florida voters are voting on electronic touch-screen machines
      which do not print out a receipt so there's no paper trail to follow in a
      recount. These machines, manufactured by firms which are among the major
      contributors to the Bush campaign and the Republican Party, are seriously
      vulnerable to hacking and manipulation. People are aware of the problem,
      but in 4 years, despite numerous lawsuits challenging the legality of these
      machines, nothing has been done to solve it - in fact, more people will
      vote on the flawed touch-screen machines than in 2000.

      Anyway, so far it seems that at least a hundred thousand people haven't yet
      received their absentee ballots, and that those who can't physically come
      to the polls on Tuesday to vote in person will simply lose their right to
      vote in this election. This affects college students in particular, who
      (coincidentally?) are likely by a vast majority to vote for Kerry. Rumours
      are flying thick and fast, to the effect that absentee ballots got mailed
      out in plenty of time to Republican districts but not to Democratic ones.
      I've heard from postal workers reporting piles of ballots lying around in
      post offices not being delivered; from a couple who requested their ballots
      at the same time and place, yet the Republican wife received hers
      immediately while the Democratic husband is still waiting for his ten weeks
      later; and from another couple who deliberately registered as 'independent'
      voters rather than Democratic specifically in order to avoid 'accidental'
      disenfranchisement of this kind.

      One of my favourite tasks this week was handing out free bottles of cold
      water to the long line of voters enduring the 3- hour wait, compliments of
      John Kerry. I was severely restricted in what I could say to them, since no
      'electioneering' is allowed in the building, and rightly so. But I could
      listen. And listen I did, fully and deeply, thanks to Kay Kay's good
      coaching. While my hands blistered from opening bottles, I listened and
      felt simply awed by the passion and determination in the strong hearts and
      minds of the mostly frail and elderly folks in line. More than one person
      over 80 told me they would gladly wait twice as long if they had to in
      order to vote Bush out, that this is the most important election of their
      lifetime. It was incredibly moving to hear elderly Jewish people - tattooed
      numbers from the concentration camps still visible on the fragile flesh of
      their forearms - say that they have never felt so frightened for the future
      as they do now. It was a privilege to witness this and I loved being a
      water-bearer to these courageous souls.

      Another day I stood on the busy corner outside the hard-to-find polling
      place, holding a big Kerry-Edwards sign. Standing in the 90F degree sun for
      hours with my arms high above my head, I appreciated my years of training
      in Armenian dance - and had the extraordinary feeling of the inner
      development of that dance, supporting me on a very deep level. I suddenly
      felt keenly aware of the thoughts and prayers of all of you and of many
      people filling me and flowing out, as if through a chalice of love and
      light. I was overwhelmed by the sense of channeling a stream of fervent
      prayer for the benefit of all beings everywhere, opening my heart to pour
      this water of life to all the strangers passing by. Oddly enough, other
      volunteers reported that the incidents of abuse from passing Bush
      supporters - which had been sadly quite frequent - dropped to almost
      nothing during the time that I was out there.

      I hope and pray that the fountain of compassion may flow in everyone's
      hearts now and during the days to come, so that the terrible atmosphere of
      tension and division here in my home country may transform into the
      strength for us all to choose compassion over violence. Thank you so much
      for holding all of us in your awareness. Please keep us particularly in
      mind on Election Day, this coming Tuesday Nov. 2, and for however many days
      following it takes to count the votes and obtain an accurate and just
      result. So much is riding on this election, for humanity everywhere, not
      just in the USA.

      With love and blessings,

      Laura <laura@...>

      *STRIDER* Sector Air Raid Warden at /RENEGADE/


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