I, like a lot of Americans, was shocked and horrified by the disenfranchisement of thousands of Florida voters during the last presidential election. I had thought the problems were reserved to the infamous butterfly ballot that resulted in thousands of erroneous votes for Pat Buchanan or the extensive use of the punch ballot system in poorer voting districts that resulted in the infamous chads. But no, apparently the level of disenfranchisement is much more insidious, extensive and, I believe, illegal.
ChoicePoint’s subsidiary Database Technologies was the chosen firm to “scrub” the Florida voter rolls of alleged illegal voters. That this firm has ties to Gov. Jeb Bush and Republicans (its head was the major Republican Party supporter, Frank Borman) is bad enough. The real problem with the firm, however, is that its own admitted error rate is 15 percent. That alone would have disqualified plenty of legitimate and legal voters, but then Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris demanded a greater net that included people with the same surnames. Harris removed 55,000 registered voters with no effort to verify the accuracy of this “scrubbing.” This likely tripled the error rate. Did ChoicePoint object to the demand for data that did not support the removal of these voters? Obviously not, because history indicates that these voters were removed and George W. Bush became president.
The problem I have as an alumnus of the University is that we have a senior fellow at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs that has (and might still have) ties with a company that neither ethically nor legally handles voter rolls data. I believe ChoicePoint’s behavior makes them a coconspirator violator of the Voting Rights Act of 1964.
As a social worker who strongly believes in social justice and the need to check my professional boundaries, lest they might violate the rights of my clients or the community at large; I find former Congressman Vin Weber’s close ties to ChoicePoint and position as one of their lobbyists (as of earlier last year) troubling. I think the least he can do is publicly announce his rejection of ChoicePoint’s data mining behavior. I also think he owes students, staff and the community an explanation of his involvement with ChoicePoint.
Anything short of these efforts to amend and clarify Weber’s relationship with ChoicePoint would cause me to question the ethics and values of the University and the Humphrey Institute. I might have to consider not renewing my membership to the Alumni Association.
Mark Davis is a University alumnus. Send comments to [email protected]