House Speaker Dennis J. Hastert confirmed yesterday that he will establish a Select Committee to examine federal and state election laws, in hopes of correcting flaws in the nation’s election system.
The new committee will be chaired by Deputy Majority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo., according to Hastert spokesman John Feehery. “We will make an official announcement when Congress returns from recess” on Feb. 26, he said.
“This is a future-oriented effort,” said Blunt’s chief of staff, Gregg Hartley. “It will be bi-partisan, and involve a report to Congress aimed at making proposals to improve the accuracy of voter registration, voting and the result.”
Republican plans to investigate election fraud were first revealed by the Western Journalism Center in December. Since then, the effort was put on hold as Hastert fought a bout of kidney stones and the Congressional Black Caucus threatened to hijack any investigation for its own purposes.
The Democrats were seeking to name Reps. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., and Jesse Jackson, Jr., D-Ill., to the task force and pledged to focus attention on alleged “disenfranchisement” of black voters in Florida to deflect Republican allegations of voter fraud, a top member of the Republican leadership told the Western Journalism Center.
“There’s always the danger of the Democrats trying to transform it, but we feel that having an official investigation of fraud during the recent election would be very healthy for the process,” Hastert spokesman Feehery said Tuesday, before the Select Committee format had been chosen. “We’re trying to be bipartisan. If they want to turn this into a partisan witch hunt, that’s unfortunate.”
Then, in a surprise move yesterday, House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Mo., announced that the Democrats would be setting up a separate, Democrat-only task force, to examine voter intimidation.
“The time to act on this issue is now,” Gephardt said. “What happened in Florida and around the country must not be allowed to ever happen again. Last November, people went to the polls, but many of their votes were not counted. This must not stand.”
In a statement released yesterday, Gephardt announced that Waters would chair the task force, known as the Democratic Caucus Special Committee on Election Reform. She will be joined by Democrat congressmen Eddie Bernice Johnson, David Price, Charlie Gonzalez, Alcee Hastings, Gary Condit, John Conyers and Steny Hoyer. No Republicans were invited to join.
“In Gadsen County, Florida, about one out of every eight ballots were thrown out because of voter error. In Jacksonville, Florida, 22,000 ballots were tossed out because of overvotes. We had reports of voter intimidation, failed machinery, poorly-trained poll workers and general confusion on election day,” Gephardt said.
Several days of hearings on the allegations of voter intimidation were held in Florida in January under the auspices of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Despite heated allegations by the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the NAACP of “a pattern of voter suppression,” no credible testimony was presented.
In sworn testimony on Jan. 12, the head of the Florida Highway Patrol, Col. Charles C. Hall, told the commission that his office had received only one complaint about the Tallahassee checkpoint most frequently cited by the NAACP and Jackson as “intimidating” black voters. The driver, Robert Tucker, testified before the commission that she had been intimidated, but then acknowledged that she went on to her polling place and voted after presenting her drivers license to police.
The Democrats’ surprise move and the renewed allegations of voter intimidation convinced Blunt to alter his approach from an investigation of voter fraud to an examination of election procedures, staff members said, to avoid a repeat of the partisan charges that fueled the national debate during the election recount.
“We won’t be trying to figure out how many convicted felons voted in Milwaukee, or how many people in St. Louis voted after the polls should have closed,” an aide to Blunt said. “We will be looking at what federal legislation needs to be implemented to improve the process in order to avoid voter fraud in the future.”
The Speaker’s Select Committee will be of short duration — six to eight months — and will report in August to the House Committee on Administration and the House Judiciary Committee.
In the meantime, the media investigation of voter fraud in Florida continues.
In January, the New York Post reported that more than 14,000 registered New York City voters are also registered to vote in Florida. “If these New Yorkers illegally cast votes in Florida, it could have had a significant impact on the presidential race since citizens of New York City voted overwhelmingly (77 percent to 19 percent) for outgoing Vice President Al Gore in November,” according to a statement from the Florida Republican Party.
Florida Republicans are investigating enclaves of New Yorkers residing and registered to vote in Deerfield Beach, Kings Point, Western Delray Beach, Gold Coast and Riviera Beach, sources told the Western Journalism Center. They have also discovered instances of dual-registered voters from New Jersey.
Kenneth Timmerman, a veteran journalist whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Time, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, is currently working on a special series of investigative reports for the Western Journalism Center on vote fraud.
Editor’s note: The Western Journalism Center is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization that sponsors independent investigative reporting projects into government fraud, waste, corruption and abuse. The charity was founded by Joseph Farah, now editor and chief executive officer of WorldNetDaily.com, but is an entirely autonomous company.
If you would like to support Kenneth Timmerman’s series on vote fraud and other similar investigative projects with tax-deductible contributions, you can do so by calling 1-800-952-5595, by writing to the center at P.O. Box 2450, Fair Oaks, CA 95628, or by making your donation online.