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5871: This Week in Haiti 18:35 11/15/00 (fwd)

From: "K. M. Ives" <kives@gateway.net>

"This Week in Haiti" is the English section of HAITI PROGRES
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and Creole, please contact us (tel) 718-434-8100,
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                           HAITI PROGRES
              "Le journal qui offre une alternative"

                      * THIS WEEK IN HAITI *

                      November 15 - 21, 2000
                          Vol. 18, No. 35


Fraud, corruption, voter intimidation, confusing ballots, racial
profiling, lost ballot boxes, destroyed ballots, incompetent and
abusive polling site supervisors, polling sites closing early,
and many other irregularities have all come to light due to the
incredibly tight U.S. presidential race between Republican
candidate George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore.

In fact, the deadlocked election between the two almost
indistinguishable candidates has revealed the giant flaws of U.S.
bourgeois democracy and created great nervousness among investors
which threatens to burst the giant speculative bubble of the U.S.
stock market, where prices are already tumbling. All this
presages greater global political and economic shocks in the
months ahead.

Meanwhile, for many Haitians, the U.S. election fiasco is proof
that there is a God... and that he has a sense of humor. ?It was
God himself who made this thing happen the way it happened, so
that the whole world can see how the Americans have absolutely no
moral authority to go supervise or judge any election in any
other country,? said Lavarice Gaudin of Veye Yo, a Miami-based
popular organization which has been active in the struggle for
Haitian-American voting rights in southern Florida.

At press time, the deadlock remained what it has been since the
Nov. 7 election day: Vice-President Gore leads Bush in the
popular vote by 222,880, with 49,222,339 votes to Bush?s
48,999,459. But due to the archaic U.S. Electoral College system
(see accompanying article), Gore stands to lose the election if
he loses the popular vote in Florida, the remaining uncalculated
state. Presently, Bush leads Gore there by a razor-thin margin of
about 388 votes, 2,910,299 to 2,909,911. Several counties, most
particularly strategic Palm Beach, are considering or already
undertaking hand-counts.

Gore presently has 255 electoral votes to Bush?s 246. A win in
Florida, with its 25 electoral college votes, will put one of the
candidates over the magic number of 270 electoral votes needed to
secure the presidency.

Much of the battle has moved now to the legal realm. Both
Republicans and Democrats have assembled huge teams of lawyers
and spokespeople, led by former Secretaries of State James Baker
and Warren Christopher respectively, to call for recounts,
challenge recounts, mount lawsuits, appeal to higher courts, and
play to the highest court of all: public opinion.

While condemning recounts in Florida, the Republicans are poised
to demand recounts in New Mexico, Oregon, and Iowa, three states
where Gore won by a slim margin.

But Florida remains the key battleground since it has the most
electoral votes, and the election there was marred by numerous
and gross irregularities. On Nov. 11, the National Association
for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the largest and
oldest civil rights organization in the U.S., held a ?Public
Meeting on Electoral Irregularities? in Miami, attended by
hundreds of people. At the forum presided over by NAACP head
Kweisi Mfume, speaker after speaker, mostly African Americans
from towns around Florida, testified how they had been denied
their right to vote.

Fumiko Robinson of Broward County explained how her mother was
registered to vote but was not allowed to because of incompetent
voting station workers. ?We made it a point to find out what
training the poll workers had,? Ms. Fumiko said. ?They only
needed to watch a two-hour video to be certified in Broward
County. Then they can tell anybody they want that they don?t have
the right to vote. That was very disturbing to me.?

Ms. Robinson also testified that an elementary school which had
long served as a polling station was torn down three weeks before
the election, and many voters in that district had not been
notified and did not know where to go to vote.

Another woman testified that long lines of people and of cars
were turned away by officials at one polling station when it
closed at 7 p.m., even though the would-be voters had been
waiting on line long before the cut-off time. ?I felt as if I had
been stripped of something very important and personal to me,?
the woman said.

Miami resident Suzie M. Stephen submitted a written statement
that at one mostly African American polling place she observed
unidentified men, who had a Bush/Cheney bumper sticker on their
pick-up truck, distributing flyers charging that a vote for Gore
was a vote for the KKK.

Stacy Powers, the news director of Tampa?s oldest black radio
station, outlined numerous irregularities in Hillsboro County.
She learned of 941 absentee voters (residents who mail in their
ballots from outside the county) who were disqualified from
voting without notification or explanation . At a church polling
site, she witnessed people with their voting cards and listed on
the register being turned away because they had no photo I.D..
This denial is an election law violation. One woman voter, she
said, was sent to six different polling sites, before eventually
being sent back to the one where she started.

Powers recounted how the Progress Village Center, a largely
African American polling site, was surrounded by an intimidating
force of about 30 cops. She explained how she met there a 67-
year-old black man who was proudly voting for the first time in
his life. But moments later, as she was driving away, she saw him
being surrounded, harassed, and put on the ground by a group of
policemen. ?I?ll call it like it is,? said Powers, who was a
police officer for 6 years before becoming a journalist, through
tears. ?It was racial profiling. All people wanted to do is
vote.? When asked by a panelist how many people she estimated
were denied their right to vote in Hillsboro County, Powers
replied: ?Thousands.?

Andrée ?Andy? Berkowitz, a New Yorker who recently moved to West
Palm Beach, explained the problems with the now-famous Palm Beach
ballot. ?The ballot was confusing to everybody, regardless of
education, race, and age,? she said. ?I have voted since I was 18
years old, and I did not understand this ballot at all. It was
not like the sample ballot that came in the mail or has been
projected on television.?

She realized after she voted that she had mistakenly punched the
hole for Patrick Buchanan, the ultra-right candidate of the
Reform Party. Far surpassing his average in other Florida
counties, Buchanan received over 3,000 votes in Palm Beach, where
hundreds of people say they punched the wrong hole like
Berkowitz. ?There is no way Buchanan got that many votes unless
it was a mistake,? she said, an assessment even Buchanan has
made. Furthermore, over 19,000 ballots were discarded as
ineligible because voters had punched holes for two candidates in
an effort to fix their mistakes.

Berkowitz also explained that she observed African Americans
being asked for photo I.D. while she, a white woman, was not.
Also there were no facilities enabling handicapped to vote at her
polling site. It also appeared to her that registered voters were
being turned away, and there was ?not one inspector who offered
to assist any of these voters who were turned away,? Berkowitz
said. ?I feel the entire nation is being disinfranchised.?

There was also testimony about the non-collection of ballot
boxes. The Reverend Clyde W. Judson, the pastor of the Good News
Little River Baptist Church in Miami, testified that his church
has been a polling site for at least the past 22 years that he
has been ministering there. He said a record number of about
1,400 African Americans came to vote at his church. But after his
site closed, no officials from the Florida Election Commission
came to collect his ballot box, #501. Haïti Progrès heard reports
of several other uncollected ballot boxes: one in a hotel
(reported by a policeman), one in a nursing home (reported by a
labor organizer), one in an elementary school (reported by Miami
Haitian community activist Marlène Bastien). Mr. Mfume, a former
U.S. congressman, called the reports of missing ballot boxes
?just amazing.?

Haitians also played a large role in uncovering the voting
irregularities. At the NAACP forum, Ernest Duval of Palm Beach
county testified that he and his wife were not allowed to get new
ballots when they realized that they had mistakenly voted for
Buchanan on their original ballot. ?The supervisor told me ?No,
you have only one chance, you don?t have another chance. If you
made a mistake, you can?t do it again,?? Duval reported. In
truth, voters are entitled to a new ballot if they make a
mistake. ?I said, ?If you can?t help me, please let me see
someone else, because I need to vote, and I made a terrible
mistake.? We stood on a line for 15 minutes, but nobody helped
us. So my ballot was punched twice, #4 [for Buchanan] and #5 [for
Gore].? Without a doubt, Duval?s ballot was one of the 19,120
discarded by Palm Beach vote counters. ?We want a revote,? Duval
concluded. ?I left Haiti because of such things. Is this an
accident or was this done deliberately to confuse people?
Everybody was confused, young and old.?

While the mainsteam press and election officials speak of a
recount, Palm Beach residents like Duval and Berkowitz keep
repeating that they want a revote. The same demand is put forward
in large spirited demonstrations that march through the county
seat almost daily this past week. It is estimated that there are
between 40,000 and 60,000 Haitians-Americans in Palm Beach
county; one of the county?s most important towns, Delray Beach,
is estimated to be one quarter Haitian.

Marlene Bastien, the executive director of Haitian Women in
Miami, also testified at the NAACP forum. She had received many
phone calls from Haitians who had not been able to vote because
they received no assistance from Creole-speaking volunteers at
the polling sites. When Bastien went to investigate one
troublesome site, she found a hostile supervisor. ?The supervisor
said ?Well the Haitian Americans should not expect any special
treatment. We?re on top of everything. We?re taking care of it,??
Bastien reported. When Bastien insisted that the electoral law
entitled the Haitian-American voters to be accompanied to the
voting booth by the Creole-speaking volunteer, the supervisor
said ?No!? and told her to get off the premises. ?She was
actually in my face and she was almost insulting me,? Bastien
said. ?I brought her forms from my car showing her that people
can get help in the booth in voting.?

Bastien also outlined other irregularites and electoral law
violations such as polling sites closing early and people with
voter cards being turned away because they had no identification.
?For many first time Haitian-American voters, it turned out to be
an agonizing, confusing, and shameful experience,? Bastien said.

There were several other instances of election day shenanigans
targeting Haitian-American voters in the Miami area which were
denounced in Creole programs on the local WLQY radio station.
?Some Haitian Republicans took photographs of Al Gore and put the
number [on the ballot] for Bush on the bottom of it, then they
gave it to Haitians to trick them into voting for Bush,? said
Lavarice Gaudin.

Some of the other election monkey-business reported on WLQY
programs: Cuban-Americans election workers at several polling
sites took the ballots of certain Haitian-Americans and instead
of putting them in the ballot box just left them scattered on a
desk. Also, many Haitian-American voters reported having problems
voting when they arrived at their polling place.  Cuban-American
supervisors at the polling sites said that they were not on the
list of registered voters. Some Haitian-American voters, who were
sure of their rights and where they were registered, succeeded in
voting after making a stink, but others were turned away.

All these voting irregularities have enraged Haitians, African
Americans, and working class people of all races and
nationalities who tend to vote Democratic because it is the
?lesser of two evils.? The uproar is even threatening the two-
party dictatorship in the U.S. About 10,000 people including many
Haitians marched on Nov. 13 in West Palm Beach to demand a
revote. The Democratic Party has tried to tone down this demand
to recount and to harness the outrage with leaders like the Rev.
Jesse Jackson. (In an interesting parallel with their tactics in
Haiti, the Republicans sent bands of clearly paid-off African
American street youths to heckle Jackson, disrupt the Democratic
rally, and shout pro-Bush slogans).

?We must not surrender to those who want to stop us from voting,
stop us from counting, stop us from talking,? Jackson said at a
giant rally at the Palm Beach Amphitheatre that evening. ?Our
quest for one person one vote will not stop.?

?In fact, the battle has gone out of Gore?s hands now,? explained
Lavarice Gaudin. ?Gore, I could say, works for the system. Even
if Gore now sits down with Bush and cuts a deal for the sake of
the system, the people have taken this thing over. The people
will not allow it.?

Meanwhile in Haiti, Ben Dupuy of the National Popular Party (PPN)
held a press conference on Nov. 10 to fix that party?s position
on the election. ?While it dubs itself the greatest democracy in
the world, the United States? electoral system isn?t democratic
at all,? Dupuy asserted. ?It isn?t the people who elect the
president; it?s what they call the Electoral College.? Dupuy
ridiculed how U.S. officials defend the Electoral College as
providing ?a precaution against the passions of the American
people. In other words, they don?t even have faith in the people.
They say they are too impassioned. But when they have to go to
war, they have no trouble whipping up passions. ?Remember Pearl
Harbor,? they chanted during World War II to whip up people.?
Dupuy remarked that the U.S. had become ?the laughing stock of
the world? and that it ?has no moral authority to give lessons to
anybody about democracy or elections because they have just
proved that they took their college degree in concocting
electoral monkey-business (magouy).?

Dupuy recalled that a few years back a U.S. offical had remarked
that ?Haitians are lacking a chromosome that would permit them to
make concessions and arrive at compromises. Well we say that it
seems to us that they have an extra chromosome which makes them
create election monkey-business. We ask the OAS (Organization of
American States), CNO (National Council of Observers) and all the
observers who usually go to the small countries to decide whether
the U.S. election has been well done or improperly done... In
fact there is always some election monkey-business or scandal
exploding in countries such as France or Germany and now the
U.S., and the day they accept for the developing nations to
observe their elections, then we will not have a problem to
invite them to come observe our elections.?

In fact, many Americans are no longer content to play along with
the two-party system, and almost 2.7 million of them -- about 3%
-- voted for Ralph Nader, the candidate of the Green Party. Some
Democrats have accused Nader of bleeding votes away from Gore,
contributing to a possible Democratic defeat. But Ralph Nader
responded in a Nov. 8 press conference that, if Gore loses, it
will be Gore who defeated Gore. By voting for Nader, a growing
sector of the American people -- particularly among the youth--
has told the Democratic Party that it has moved completely and
unacceptably to the right.

In short, this year?s electoral crisis reveals the more general
bankruptcy of the U.S. political system. As usual, less than 50%
of eligible voters bothered to vote because they don?t feel there
is that much difference between the two U.S. ruling parties.
?There is no great ideological chasm dividing the candidates,?
admitted outgoing New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. But
the relatively strong showings of alternative candidates, along
with the gross irregularites of the U.S. elections, is a
tremendous boon to Haiti. ?For Haiti?s Nov. 26 elections, the
U.S. is supposed to send a delegation to oversee the elections,?
said Lavaric Gaudin. ?But the Haitian government should send them
right home because the U.S. truly has no credibility to be able
to inspect any elections done in the smaller countries.?


The Electoral College is the body which elects the U.S. President
every four years. Most Americans, prior to this year?s election,
were not even aware of the existence of the Electoral College or
didn?t really understand its role. They thought they were voting
for the president when they cast their ballot for President on
the first Tuesday in November every four years. In fact, they are
only electing the person who will then elect the president in the
middle of December.

The first thing one must understand about the Electoral College -
- an institution unique to the U.S. -- is that it was designed to
constrict democracy, not assist it.

Contrary to the Haitian Revolution, which was an uprising against
slave owners, the American Revolution was an uprising led
primarily by slave owners. The ?founding fathers? also included
big merchants, bankers, shippers, big planters, and lawyers who
feared the American masses, at that time mostly small farmers,
artisans, and day laborers. The American masses also included
women, slaves, and Native Americans, but all these latter groups
were specifically prohibited from voting by the hallowed
Constitution of the ?founding fathers.? Much like the ?nèg savè?
(wise men) who drew up the 1987 Haitian Constitution (bourgeois
representatives like Louis Roy and Duvalierist representatives
like Emile Jonassaint), the men who wrote the U.S. Constitution
and devised the Electoral College only represented 10% of the
U.S. population and included no workers or peasants. At that
time, states restricted the right to vote to property owners
only. For the first 50 years (until 1824), the U.S. didn?t even
permit a concurrent popular vote for president.

The American ?founding fathers? worried that the American masses
were poorly read and subject to being misled and making
?passionate? decisions. They didn?t want the American people to
directly vote for the president. They felt that would be too much
?democracy.? Many of them wanted the Congress to choose the

But finally, they devised the Electoral College, where the U.S.
citizens elect ?electors,? who then elect the president. Each
state gets one elector for every representative and senator it
has in Congress. Each of the 50 U.S. states has two senators. The
number of representatives is adjusted every decade, after a
census count, to reflect population growth and shifts. There are
a total of 538 electors this year, including the three allotted
to the District of Columbia.

One of the main purposes of the Electoral College system is to
prevent challenges to the status quo by third parties and mass
movements. This way the two factions of the U.S. ruling class ?
Democrat (liberal) and Republican (conservative) ? can maintain
their choke-hold on power, a thinly veiled dictatorship of the

This is admitted even by William C. Kimberling, Deputy Director
of the U.S. Federal Election Commission: ?There can be no doubt
that the Electoral College has encouraged and helps to maintain a
two-party system in the United States,? he writes. ?This is true
simply because it is extremely difficult for a new or minor party
to win enough popular votes in enough States to have a chance of
winning the presidency... In addition to protecting the
presidency from impassioned but transitory third party movements,
the practical effect of the Electoral College (...) is to
virtually force third party movements into one of the two major
political parties... In this process of assimilation, third party
movements are obliged to compromise their more radical views if
they hope to attain any of their more generally acceptable
objectives.? Of course he means more ?generally acceptable? to
the ruling elite.

Kimberling extols the Electoral College system over ?direct
popular election,? which is far more feasible today than in 1776.
Direct elections would spawn ?a multitude of minor parties? which
would draw presidential candidates into ?the regionalist or
extremist views represented by these parties? which would result
in ?a frayed and unstable political system characterized by a
multitude of political parties and by more radical changes in
policies from one administration to the next.? In short,
Kimberling exhibits the same elitist reasoning as the founding
fathers in ?insulating? the two-party dictatorship from third
party challenges and popular will.

This is why, for the past century, socialist and progressive
candidates since the days of Eugene V. Debs have always condemned
the Electoral College system as just one more tool used to
control and suppress democracy in the U.S.. Today, with the
Electoral College vote threatening to subvert the popular vote
and with the strong showing by progressive Green Party candidate
Ralph Nader, many Americans are waking up to the true nature of
this institution.

All articles copyrighted Haiti Progres, Inc. REPRINTS ENCOURAGED
Please credit Haiti Progres.