If the Democrats lose the presi-dency it won't be because of Ralph Nader. A study done by Human Rights Watch and the Sentencing Project suggests that George W. Bush has a narrow lead in Florida not because Al Gore lost left-wing Democrats to the Green party but because a whole whack of Democrat supporters in Florida have permanently lost their right to vote. These are folks who are either in jail now or have been in the past.
The study, Losing The Vote: The Impact Of Felony Disenfranchisement Laws In The United States, found that fully 31 per cent of the black male population in the Sunshine State -- more than 200,000 people -- have been permanently disenfranchised.
Considering that Gore took more than 90 per cent of the African-American vote in the South, and assuming that the voting pattern of black ex-felons would have been similar to the patterns of black residents in Florida generally, Gore would have received enough votes to outpace Dubya.
The irony is that the hardline "war on drugs" policy pursued by the Clinton-Gore administration for the last eight years is responsible for the explosion of the disproportionately black and latino prison population..
Florida is one of 10 mostly southern states that permanently deny convicted felons the right to vote even after they've completed their sentence -- no matter how small the felony. The Human Rights Watch/Sentencing Project study, completed in 1998, reports cases where voting rights have been permanently stripped for minor theft or, in one case, passing a bad $150 cheque.
Of the 3.9 million Americans who have currently or permanently lost their voting rights, 1.4 million are African-American men.
"One of the many ironies in all of this," says Sanho Tree, of the Washington DC based Institute for Policy Studies, "is that if half of what we hear about Bush and Gore's history of drug use is true, neither of these guys should be allowed to vote."