|Eintime Conversion for education and research 05-14-2006 @ 17:17:14|
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Civil rights panel reportedly finds fault with Florida balloting; no conspiracy found
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (June 5, 12:10 a.m. CDT) - After investigating for six months, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has concluded that Florida's conduct of the 2000 presidential election unjustly penalized minority voters, The Washington Post reported in Tuesday's editions.
The report, expected to be released publicly later this week, criticizes Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Secretary of State Katherine Harris for allegedly allowing discrimination against certain voters, the newspaper said.
The commission is composed of four Democrats, three independents and one Republican. It is poised to ask the Justice Department and the Florida attorney general's office to investigate whether federal or state civil rights laws were violated.
Unequal access to modern voting equipment and "overzealous efforts" to purge state voter lists most harshly affected blacks in the state that decided the November election for President Bush, the commission declared in a 167-page final draft report, the Post said.
The inquiry found no "conclusive evidence" that officials "conspired" to disenfranchise minority and disabled voters, it added.
Fifty-four percent of votes rejected during the Florida election were cast by black voters, according to the report, scheduled for a commission vote Friday. Blacks accounted for 11 percent of voters statewide.
"The disenfranchisement was not isolated or episodic," the report said, according to the Post.
The commission is charged with investigating possible violations of the federal Voting Rights Act and other civil rights protections.
Advisers to Gov. Bush and Harris were angered by the report's early release. Harris' spokesman, David Host, told the Post the leak was "both fraudulent and shameful" because Harris' response is not due until later this week.
The commission held three days of hearings, interviewed 100 witnesses and reviewed 118,000 documents.
Some of the key findings, according to the Post:
-Blacks were nearly 10 times as likely as whites to have their ballots rejected. Poor counties populated by minorities were more likely to use voting systems that rejected larger percentages of ballots than more affluent counties.
Some Hispanic and Haitian voters were not provided ballots in their native languages, and physical barriers sometimes kept disabled voters from entering polling sites.
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