Sunday, August 15, 2004
More tales from the swamp, by Bob Herbert of the New York Times:
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.If the title of our post seems unnecessarily cryptic, please accept our apologies. Just read up on Operation Eagle Eye and all will be made clear.
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 . . . .
The state police officers, armed and in plain clothes, have questioned dozens of voters in their homes. Some of those questioned have been volunteers in get-out-the-vote campaigns.
I asked Mr. Morales in a telephone conversation to tell me what criminal activity had taken place.
"I can't talk about that," he said.
I asked if all the people interrogated were black.
"Well, mainly it was a black neighborhood we were looking at - yes,'' he said.
He also said, "Most of them were elderly."
When I asked why, he said, "That's just the people we selected out of a random sample to interview" . . . .
Not surprisingly, many of the elderly black voters who found themselves face to face with state police officers in Orlando are members of the Orlando League of Voters, which has been very successful in mobilizing the city's black vote.
Now, said [Orlando lawyer Joseph] 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?'"