Voting Irregularities in Florida During the 2000 Presidential Election

Statement of Chairperson Mary Frances Berry, Vice Chairperson Cruz Reynoso, and Commissioners Christopher Edley, Jr., Yvonne Y. Lee, Elsie Meeks, and Victoria Wilson

Citizens must have a voice in the election of those who make the laws under which we all must live. As this report, Voting Irregularities in Florida During the 2000 Presidential Election, concludes, the voices of many voters, particularly African Americans, Latinos and Haitians with language assistance needs, and persons with disabilities, were silenced in Florida. This report’s unique blend of statistical analyses, combined with the presentation of striking eyewitness testimony and voluminous documentary evidence, provides a compelling portrait of disenfranchisement. We commend the staff for their swift response to the innumerable allegations of voting irregularities they considered.  

The report emphasizes the barriers that Hispanics encountered during the November 2000 election. However, due to the limitations of the available data, Hispanics could not be easily distinguished from nonblacks in statistical analysis. However, the work of the Commission’s expert, Dr. Allan Lichtman, suggests that if the data on the Hispanic group were further isolated, the racial disparities between blacks and nonblacks would be greater.

Governor Jeb Bush’s Select Task Force on Election Procedures, Standards and Technology revealed that less than 1 percent of the problems minority voters faced during the election resulted from “voter error.” Our report demonstrates that independent of income, poverty rates, and literacy, factors that are all deeply intertwined with race, a double-digit difference exists in the ballot rejection rates for African Americans. Standing alone, the major racial disparities in ballot rejection rates in Florida’s election appear to establish a prima facie violation of the Voting Rights Act, which protects the franchise for all eligible persons.

There are no permanent majority or minority factions within the United States Commission on Civil Rights. Nor does the Commission issue majority or minority reports. Once any report is approved by the vote of a majority of Commission members it is the Commission’s report. Commissioners who dissent or wish to concur or add additional remarks may do so in statements commenting on the report that may be published with the report as long as they comply with our statute.

We want to ensure that nothing detracts from a focus on the documented disenfranchisement that occurred in Florida. Therefore, we have included documents validating the fairness and routine nature of the process used to produce this report in the appendix. The Commission has reviewed and updated its procedures, where necessary, in response to a 1997 General Accounting Office (GAO) report that found managerial “disarray” in that certain administrative deficiencies had not been addressed by Republican and Democratic appointees since the early 1980s. Some of these problems were analyzed in a 1988 GAO report, Concerns About Commission Operations.

Our report concludes that there were election policies and practices in place that prevented some of Florida’s residents from voting and others from having their votes counted. American voters are no longer disenfranchised through the use of poll taxes, literacy requirements, grandfather clauses, and other similar procedures. The Commission’s investigation, however, revealed a more subtle and possibly more insidious form of disenfranchisement caused by the inexplicable lack of needed election resources and accountability of public officials entrusted to protect this critical and fundamental right. We will continue to monitor events in Florida in the hope that these barriers to the right to vote have been removed.