- An Observer investigation in the United States has
widespread allegations of electoral abuse, many of them going
despite complaints of what would appear to be criminal attempts to
- The allegations, which come just two days before
go to the polls in one of the most tightly contested elections in a
threaten to plunge Tuesday's count into a legal minefield and overshadow
even the elections of 2000.
- The claims come as both Republicans and Democrats put
in place up to 2,000 lawyers across the country to challenge attempts to
manipulate the vote in swing states.
- Although allegations of misconduct have been levelled
at both parties recently, the majority of complaints that have been
in The Observer' s investigation involved claims against local
- The claims, made by the BBC's Newsnight, follow alleged
attempts by Republicans to illegally suppress the votes in key states.
Republican spokesmen deny these allegations.
- One of the more serious claims is that no action has
been taken in a complex fraud, where more than 4,000 Florida students were
allegedly conned into signing a form which could lead them to be doubly
registered and void their votes. The Florida Law Enforcement Department
has told the complainants that it is too busy to investigate.
- In Colorado too, Democrats are complaining about an
to remove up to 6,000 convicted felons from the electoral roll, at the
behest of the state's Republican secretary of state, Donetta Davidson,
despite a US federal law that prohibits eliminating a voter's rights within
90 days of an election to give time for the voter to protest.
- The attempt to purge the list of alleged felons would
appear to be a re-run of the attempt by Florida Governor Jeb Bush's
of state to remove 93,000 citizens from voter rolls as felon convicts are
not allowed to vote.
- Investigations appear to have established that only 3
per cent of the largely African-American list were illegal voters.
- That action led to a vote in July by the US Civil Rights
Commission to open a criminal and civil investigation of the Jeb Bush
purge of voters, including indications of concealing evidence subpoenaed
by the commission's investigators. The new claims follow the Newsnight
revelation last week of confidential documents from inside Republican
in Florida and Washington which the programme claimed suggested a plan
- possibly in violation of US law - to stop thousands of African-Americans
from voting on election day.
- The programme produced two leaked emails, prepared for
the executive director of the Bush campaign in Florida and the campaign's
national research director in Washington DC, containing a 15-page list.
The list contains 1,886 names and addresses of voters in predominantly
black and traditionally Democratic areas of Jacksonville, Florida.
- An elections supervisor in Tallahassee, when shown the
list, told Newsnight: 'The only possible reason why they would keep such
a thing is to challenge voters on election day.'
- Ion Sancho, not affiliated with any party, noted that
Florida law allows political party operatives inside polling stations to
stop voters from obtaining a ballot. They may then only vote
after signing an affidavit attesting to their legal voting status.
- Mass challenges have never occurred in Florida. Indeed,
says Mr Sancho, not one challenge has been made to a voter 'in the 16 years
I've been supervisor of elections. Quite frankly, this process can be used
to slow down the voting process and cause chaos on election day and
voters from voting.'
- Sancho calls it intimidation. And it may be illegal.
In Washington, well-known civil rights attorney Ralph Neas noted that US
federal law prohibits the targeting voters, even if there is a basis for
the challenge, if race is a factor in targeting the voters.
- The list of Jacksonville voters covers an area with a
majority of black residents.
- When asked by Newsnight for an explanation of the list,
Republican spokespeople claimed that the list merely records returned mail
from either fundraising solicitations or newly registered voters to verify
addresses for purposes of campaign literature.
- Republican state campaign spokeswoman, Mindy Tucker
stated the list was not put together 'in order to create' a challenge list,
but refused to say it would not be used in that manner.
- The Observer has found that many people are soldiers
sent overseas. Republicans acknowledge the list was created by compiling
lists of voters whose addresses have changed whose only use, say critics,
would be to challenge voters on election day on the basis that their voting
address is not valid. But this 'caging' method captures those whose
have changed because they have been sent to Iraq or other places. The list
includes homeless shelter residents, casting doubt on suggestions the list
was created from fundraising solicitations for the Bush-Cheney
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