Study Says Minorities Lost in Florida Election

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Seven months after the controversial Florida presidential election, a report says that minorities suffered "injustice, ineptitude and inefficiency" — but found no conspiracy to disenfranchise groups of voters. The United States Commission on Human Rights report, due to be officially released on Friday but leaked to the media Monday, is the product of a six-month investigation into the Florida election. The document says that many black and Hispanic voters were stymied by unequal access to quality voting equipment and "overzealous efforts" to clean up voter registration lists. According to the Washington Post, the leaked portions of the report included findings that black voters were almost 10 times more likely to have their ballots rejected than white voters.

It was the early release that drew the ire of some commission members, who charged a political motivation in letting damning details out days before the report was set to be voted on by Commission officials. Two, Independent Russell Rendenbaugh and Abigail Thernstrom, the only Republican, spoke out about the report to the New York Times. Redenbaugh said there wasn't any evidence to support the charges of discrimination, while Thernstrom said that she hadn't even seen the report.

"This is scandalous," she said. "Nobody ever asked me what my views were. I have never had any discussion with a single member of the staff about the substance or the conclusions of the report." Florida Governor Jeb Bush joined in late Tuesday, calling the commission's conclusions irresponsible and biased.

The complaints "run the risk of de-legitimizing the report," says Richard Valelly, an Associate Professor of Political Science at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. "If the report is valid on its own, it may survive; the proof is in pudding. If the pudding is good," he says, it may prevent future questionable election procedures.

The report will also help continue the processes of reform that have already begun in Florida and across the country, according to Howard A. Glickstein, Dean of the Touro Law Center at Touro College in Huntington, NY. Glickstein, who was the General Counsel for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in the mid-1960's, also helped write the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and draft the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The report, he says, "focuses on defects last year that people will be very sensitive to in the next election. Once problems have been uncovered and identified, people are more sensitive to them, and they are less likely to happen again."