ABC reported yesterday Linda Chavez, President-elect George W. Bush’s nominee for labor secretary, allowed a Guatemalan woman who was in the United States illegally to live in her home and gave the woman spending money. The television report quoted Chavez as saying through a Bush spokesperson that the woman did odd jobs around her home and was occasionally given spending money, although Chavez did not consider the money as compensation for work. Chavez, a former Reagan administration official whose nomination is strongly opposed by labor unions, is among three Bush cabinet choices expected to undergo intense questioning in the Senate in upcoming confirmation hearings. The others are conservative abortion rights foe John Ashcroft as attorney general and former Colorado Attorney General Gail Norton as interior secretary. Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota says if the Chavez report is true, it could cause major problems for her nomination.
Congress met in joint session Saturday and certified the electoral college vote, which makes official the selection of George W. Bush as president. However, while congressional certification is usually quick and routine, Congressional Black Caucus members protested during the session that black voters had been disenfranchised, and attempted to block the counting of Florida’s 25 electoral votes. The first protest came shortly after 1:00 p.m., after a delegation from the Senate carried in the electoral votes in two wooden boxes bound in leather. With less than a third of the House members there, and under half of the Senate, representative Peter Deutsch, a Florida Democrat, tried to shut down the session for lack of a quorum. He also tried to speak, saying, “There are many Americans who still believe…” only to be drowned out by Republicans asking for him to be silenced for being out of order. Vice President Gore gaveled him down. Florida Democratic Congressmember Alcee Hastings was the first to object, speaking of “overwhelming evidence of official misconduct” before Gore gaveled him because of lack of support from a senator. Federal law requires a member of both the House and the Senate to question a state’s electoral votes in writing for a formal objection to be considered, but the House members had no Senate support, so Gore, who was presiding, slammed down the gavel to silence them. There are no black senators. Congressmember Jessie Jackson, Jr., said, “It’s a sad day in America when we can’t find a senator to sign this objection.” As Florida’s 25 electoral votes were accepted, members of the Congressional Black Caucus left the chamber in protest. Asked about the protest by members of the Congressional Black Caucus, George Bush replied, “I didn’t ever expect to get 100 percent of the vote.”
The American Civil Liberties Union sued Georgia state officials Friday to protest Georgia’s voting system, claiming confusing, outdated equipment is unconstitutional and dilutes the voice of black voters. The lawsuit seeks to throw out the punch card system used in 17 Georgia counties, in which voters use styluses to poke through rectangles of paper, or chads, to select candidates. Filed on behalf of seven black voters, the suit claims Georgia’s election system routinely disenfranchises thousands. Counties that use punch card machines have disproportionately high numbers of black voters. According to the Bush campaign, about 4.4 percent of Georgians either chose not to vote for president, or voted but did not have their votes counted because of error. The national average was 1.9 percent.
The New York Times reported yesterday a few hundred protesters gathered outside the Lower Manhattan offices of radio station WBAI on Saturday afternoon, denouncing last month’s abrupt dismissal of three longtime employees in what has come to be known as the “Christmas Coup.” The New York Times article goes on to say the struggle between employees and volunteers at WBAI, a voice of the left for half a century, and the management of its parent group, the Pacifica Foundation, has become increasingly tense since Pacifica fired WBAI’s general manager, Valerie Van Isler, and locked her out of her office on December 22. Ms. Van Isler was replaced by Utrice Leid, a producer. Two other WBAI employees were also fired: the program director Bernard White, and the union steward Sharan Harper, a program assistant on the morning program Wake-Up Call. Also, some volunteers were banned from the station.