WASHINGTON (Reuters) -
Florida's conduct of the 2000 presidential election was marked by "injustice,
ineptitude and inefficiency" that unfairly penalized minority voters, The Washington
Post reported Tuesday, quoting a government report.
The Post said the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights criticized top state officials --
particularly Gov. Jeb Bush and Secretary of State Katherine Harris -- for allowing
disparate treatment of voters.
It said the commission -- composed of four Democrats, three independents and one
Republican -- planned to ask the U.S. 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 black voters in the state that decided the
November election for President Bush, the Post said, quoting the 167-page final draft
"The disenfranchisement was not isolated or episodic. State officials failed to
fulfill their duties in a manner that would prevent this disenfranchisement," the
Post quoted the report as saying. "Despite the closeness of the election, it
was widespread voter disenfranchisement and not the dead-heat contest that was the
extraordinary feature in the Florida election," it said.
A spokeswoman for Gov. Bush, the younger brother of the president, took issue with the
report, noting that its preliminary report several months ago had failed to find "any
evidence of intentional discrimination," the Post said.
"Since that report, the governor has signed into law one of the most progressive
election reform bills in the nation. We will have no further comment until our office
receives a copy of the final report," it quoted Katie Baur as saying.
The Florida attorney general's office is investigating "possible civil rights
violations stemming from the election," spokesman Joe Bizzaro said yesterday.
"We're going to give due consideration to whatever is requested by the
A bipartisan task force appointed by Gov. Bush concluded the November election was
marred by systemic inconsistencies, citing unreliable voting machines, improper counting
of absentee ballots and inaccurate databases.
The commission's report is the broadest, and most narrowly focused on minorities, to
date. The panel held three days of hearings, interviewed 100 witnesses and reviewed
Among the key findings:
-- African Americans were nearly 10 times as likely as whites to have their ballots
-- Some Hispanic and Haitian voters were not provided ballots in their native languages,
and physical barriers sometimes kept disabled voters from entering polling sites.
-- The Florida Division of Elections failed to educate Florida's residents on the
mechanics of voting.