U.S. Civil Rights
Commission Report —
In Florida Vote
Questions continue to be raised about the 2000 presidential
election, fueled by this month’s finding by the United States Commission on
Civil Rights of "widespread voter disenfranchisement," particularly
of African-American voters.
After weeks of contention, George W. Bush was eventually
awarded an Electoral College victory on the basis of a 537-vote majority in
Florida, out of nearly 6 million votes cast there.
"The disenfranchisement of Florida’s voters fell most
harshly on the shoulders of African-Americans," said the report issued by
the Civil Rights Commission. "Statewide, based upon county-level
statistical estimates, African-American voters were nearly 10 times more
likely than white voters to have their ballots rejected." (See: U.S.
Civil Rights Commission Draft report [link will open a new browser
window]). Fifty-four percent of Florida ballots disqualified were those of
African-American voters, who comprise 11 percent of the state’s voters.
More than 400,000 alleged ex-felons, about half of them black,
were denied the opportunity to vote in the 2000 election. And as press reports
have pointed out, the felon purge was fraught with error.
'NOT AN ACCURATE LIST'
Sandylynn Williams, a black Tampa resident and Gore supporter,
was not allowed to vote because she was wrongly identified as a felon. "I
don’t feel like it was an honest mistake," she told the Los Angeles
Times. The 34-year-old had voted in every election since she was 18 and
had passed a government background check for a job with a military contractor.
Officials restored Williams’s right to vote — 10 days after the
"We removed a lot of people from the rolls when I know
this was not a truly accurate list," David Leahy, the Miami-Dade election
supervisor told Lisa Getter of the Times.
Florida is one of only 12 states that bar felons from voting
unless they apply for and win clemency from a state board. Most states
automatically restore a felon’s right to vote after completion of the
sentence. "Records show," the Times reported, "that more
than 2,000 alleged felons from other states were put on Florida’s felon
lists even those states had restored their voting rights." Canada takes
special steps to register former prisoners and return them to full
Marches in Washington and San Francisco on May 19 endorsed by
50 grassroots organizations called for a new voting rights movement to restore