Civil rights panel revisits Florida vote

June 17, 2002 at 2:26 PM
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MIAMI, June 17 (UPI) -- The U.S. Civil Rights Commission is revisiting Florida this week to assess whether the state's election reforms have gone far enough to solve the problems of the 2000 election, including voting rights violations.

Commission members also will try to determine whether the issues that were not addressed can be resolved and what impact there will be on this fall's mid-term elections.

The commission made 11 recommendations to address the irregularities, inefficiencies and ineptitude in the 2000 presidential election. Chairwoman Mary Frances Berry said the Florida Legislature's reform measure addressed seven of the recommendations.

President Bush defeated former Democratic Vice President Al Gore by 537 votes after a five-week dispute over the results of the election. Florida's 25 electoral votes went to Bush, enough to elect him.

After several hearings, the commission concluded last year, "It is not a question of a recount or even an accurate count, but more pointedly whose exclusion from the fright to vote amounted to a 'No Count.'"

The commission said officials were not prepared to handle the huge voter turnout and at least one voting location threw up a law enforcement checkpoint. It also said a purge of the voting rolls of felons was based on unreliable information.

The commission briefing Thursday will be made up of three panels of three or four people each. Commission members will ask questions following the presentations of each panel. The panelists will include Leon County Elections Supervisor Ion Sancho and Florida NAACP President Adora Obi Nweze.

Gov. Jeb Bush and Secretary of State Katherine Harris were invited but are not expected to participate.

The briefing follows a meeting in Jacksonville, Fla., last week in which People for the American Way Foundation briefed about 450 people how to protect their vote this fall. Volunteers will be dispatched to precincts around the state where there have been problems in recent elections.

They will offer assistance and inform voters of their rights. The volunteers will be equipped with cell phones and have access to a hotline to get to attorneys for advice.

People for the American Way has so far budgeted $3 million for the effort nationwide, $750,000 of it in Florida.

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