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Friday, 5 January, 2001, 19:25 GMT
Bush's brother to face vote inquiry
Demonstrator in Florida
Black voters in Florida believe there was a conspiracy against them
By Malcolm Brabant in Miami

Florida Governor Jeb Bush has been subpoenaed to appear before a civil rights commission investigating voter irregularities in the state during last year's presidential election.

The commission, an independent fact-finding agency of the federal government, will be holding hearings in the state capital, Tallahassee, at the end of next week.

In particular, it will be examining allegations by African-Americans that they were the victims of an orchestrated effort to disenfranchise them.

Jeb Bush
Governor Bush feels offended by the order
Mr Bush, who is also President-elect George W Bush's younger brother, is clearly offended by being ordered to appear before the commission. He says he would have volunteered to testify.

Black voters across Florida, 90% of whom voted for Al Gore, want to see Mr Bush subjected to a vigorous grilling.

They believe there was a conspiracy organised at the highest level to ensure that their votes did not count.

'Isolated cases'

Mr Bush has dismissed such allegations. He doubts very strongly that the commission will find evidence of wrong-doing.

Florida demonstrator
Only 8% of blacks voted for Mr Bush's brother for president
He believes there may have been isolated cases where election supervisors did not have voting lists, but he does not think there was any concerted effort to deny people their right to vote.

The commission says that, among other things, it will examine the following allegations:

  • Voters were improperly removed from voting lists

  • Black students who had registered to vote were not listed

  • There was police intimidation

  • Haitian Americans were not given assistance in their native Creole language

Black politicians want the commission to press Governor Bush and other state officials about the unusually high presence of Florida highway patrolmen in black precincts in election day.

Police presence

One state senator, Daryll Jones, said there had to have been an order for them to set up road-blocks.

The commission will try to determine whether there is a paper trail that leads further up the chain of command.

Although it is the most powerful civil rights body in the United States, the Democratic-leaning commission does not have any powers of enforcement.

All it can do is to use its moral authority to make recommendations to the president and Congress.

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30 Dec 00 | Americas
Black voters' challenge for Bush
16 Dec 00 | Americas
Pressure mounts for electoral reform
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