- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Rarely is a political notion so thoroughly discredited as the idea that Florida’s black voters were intimidated, harassed or intentionally disenfranchised at the polls in 2000. Someone should tell Jimmy Carter.

Earlier this week, in an op-ed, the former president warned of a repeat of Florida’s electoral fiasco and resurrected the race canard by suggesting that racial motivations contributed to the Florida voting mess four years ago. “Several thousand ballots of African Americans were thrown out on technicalities” in 2000, he wrote, imputing a connection. He then lambasted Florida officials for a recent dust-up over a list of alleged felons to be disqualified from voting, apparently because “22,000 [are] African Americans” — “likely Democrats,” Mr. Carter helpfully reminds us.

The former president seems a little abstracted from the current facts on the ground. In case he missed it, first came the June 2001 report from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The report, a long-awaited announcement on problems in the Florida count, announced it had found no evidence existed that Florida’s black voters were intimidated, harassed or otherwise intentionally disenfranchised at the polls the previous November. Voters “confronted inexperienced poll workers, antiquated machinery, inaccessible polling locations, and other barriers to being able to exercise their right to vote,” the commission found, but they did not experience any intentional obstruction as they cast their ballots.

Next, the question was revisited in 2002 by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. It, too, turned up nothing.

So why bring back these demagogic assertions now? Clearly Mr. Carter is engaged in some electoral politicking. He lambastes Florida’s voting officials for being “highly partisan.” That’s a curious assertion, since it seems that he has deliberately shut out Florida’s top election officials in recent years. In a phone interview yesterday, Florida Secretary of State Glenda Hood, the presumed target of much of Mr. Carter’s ire, told us that neither he nor any of his staff has made an effort to contact her since she assumed her position in February 2003. She also claims that no one in her office has heard from him or his staff since 2000.

Clearly, Mr. Carter’s move is a blatant attempt to scare up voters in Florida and tilt the playing field to the Democratic Party’s advantage. That’s to be expected in an election year, but we were surprised to see a former president stooping to such depths in pursuit of those ends. He could at least admit that he is trying to help his Democratic Party, rather than the democratic process.

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