U.S. COMMISSION ON CIVIL RIGHTS

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MEETING

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Friday, June 8, 2001

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The Commission convened in Room 540 at 624 Ninth Street, Northwest, Washington, D.C. at 9:30 a.m., Mary Frances Berry, Chairperson, presiding.

PRESENT:

 MARY FRANCES BERRY, Chairperson
CRUZ REYNOSO, Vice Chairperson
CHRISTOPHER EDLEY, JR., Commissioner
YVONNE Y. LEE, Commissioner
ELSIE M. MEEKS, Commissioner
RUSSELL G. REDENBAUGH, Commissioner
ABIGAIL THERNSTROM, Commissioner
VICTORIA WILSON, Commissioner
LESLIE R. JIN, Staff Director
DR. ALLAN J. LICHTMAN, Consultant


[GENERAL COUNSEL HAILES]: Our internal guidelines for affected Agency review do require us to send portions of a report that pertain to the activities and responsibilities of that Agency, send those portions of the report to that affected Agency and give them an opportunity to review those portions, not the entire report, particularly not before the Commissioners get the entire report, but those portions to that Agency allow them to review them and comment.

The staff sent the relevant portions of the draft report to the nearly 30 affected agencies, agencies whose activities and responsibilities are mentioned in this draft report. We received approximately five responses. For the Office of the Governor, we received affected Agency comments from his legal counsel, Mr. Charles T. Canady, the General Counsel. We saw his comments in the media before we received them, but having received them we took them as we do all affected Agency comments, review them to determine whether it was necessary and appropriate to make changes in the draft report and I believe his letter was approximately seven pages and we found two areas in perhaps the last two pages of his response that required us to consider making necessary and appropriate changes and we have made those changes based on his response.

And I can talk now -- one of those changes, Madam Chair, is in reference to testimony we received and we report in this draft report from the testimony about a letter that was sent by the Governor to some members, some citizens about the election encouraging them to vote by absentee ballot. And you may recall the testimony that some persons believed that taxpayersí monies were used because it appeared to be, there appeared to be the official seal of the State on the letter and it was sent to Republican voters according to the witness and only Republican voters, encouraging them to vote by absentee ballot and more specifically from the convenience of your home and the witness believed that was in violation of the law because this is not a mail-in State where mail-in voting is permitted as it is in other States.

In his response, Mr. Canady told us that the letter we referred to in the report was misleading and in some ways incorrect, for the letter that the Governor sent was not on the official stationery of the State, but it was from the desk of Governor Jeb Bush. The seal in the background of the letter was not the current seal of State, but an older version of the seal of State. So we believe itís important to put in the record to make sure itís complete that the Governorís legal representative believed that we should let people know that this was not the current seal, it was an old seal. This is from the desk of Jeb Bush and it wasnít paid, and this is significant and we are making the change, this was not paid for with taxpayersí monies.

Another change that we make because itís in response to affected Agency review and thatís why we have affected Agency review, if thereís an inaccuracy, incomplete information, the agencies can let us know that changes should be made and we will consider them. We had pointed out in the report that county supervisors requested and needed voter education monies and the funds, I believe, $100,000 had been requested by the Division of Elections for $100,000 to go into the budget and the Governor did not promote that $100,000 funding for voter education funds.

We received again a response from the Governor that said that in fact an investigation was conducted and the Division of Elections, the Secretary of State never did request the $100,000 voter education funds. So in the report we will reflect that contrary to the sworn testimony of L. Clayton Roberts, the Director of the Division of Elections, the Governor says that the monies were never requested from the Secretary of State. That will be in the report.

CHAIRPERSON BERRY: So it is accurate to state as I read that the Governor failed to support the request for $100,000?

GENERAL COUNSEL HAILES: That is accurate because he said it never came to his desk to support it.

CHAIRPERSON BERRY: But Mr. Roberts who was the Director --

GENERAL COUNSEL HAILES: Said that it did, so thereís a dispute, but I think we should put both in. We should put the dispute in there.

We also had and we thank the Staff Director for naming some extremely well qualified experienced staffers to the Editorial Policy Review Board. They did a wonderful job making suggestions on how we could change the --

VICE CHAIRPERSON REYNOSO: I am sorry, can I ask, did you have a response from the Secretary of State?

GENERAL COUNSEL HAILES: I have a list before me and we did then a major portion, perhaps the largest portion and the staff will correct me if Iím wrong, perhaps the largest portion of the report that was sent out for affected Agency review went to the Office of Secretary of State Katherine Harris and looking at my listing and knowing it to be a fact, we did not receive any comments from the Secretary of State and we did not receive comments from the Director of the Division of Elections, although we sent major portions of the report to both bodies.

COMMISSIONER THERNSTROM: Mr. Hailes, could you wrap up?

GENERAL COUNSEL HAILES: Sure. So following the legal sufficiency review, the editorial policy review, the affected Agency review, other changes, the staff completed this report and Iím proud to work with the team leaders, Mr. Peter Riley, Deborah Reed, Michael Foreman, Audrey Wiggins and other staff members who worked very diligently on this report, including Bernard Quarterman, Joyce Smith and Barbara Delaviez and Jenny Park, all of whom did an exceptional job on this report.