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Thursday, 11 January, 2001, 12:13 GMT
Black votes in Florida investigated
Black voters rally for Gore
Black Americans remain convinced Gore won but was cheated
By Malcolm Brabant in Tallahassee

Allegations that tens of thousands of black Floridians were disenfranchised during November's presidential election will come under scrutiny over the next two days.

The US Civil Rights Commission, the most powerful Federal organisation on race issues in America, will be holding hearings in Florida's state capital, Tallahassee.

A black Floridan votes Gore
Black voters claim they were disenfranchised
Black Americans remain convinced that Al Gore won more votes than George W Bush in Florida and was cheated of the White House by the US Supreme Court.

That anger is bound to resurface over the next couple of days as the Commission tries to determine whether black voters in Florida were discriminated against.

State governor

The first main witness is the state's governor, Jeb Bush, the brother of the president-elect.

Many blacks genuinely believe that he fixed the election.

Mr Bush insists that he has nothing to hide and has joked that the only crime he is guilty of is being the president-elect's brother.

Mr Bush does not believe the Commission will uncover any evidence of a deliberate attempt to disenfranchise black voters, 93% of whom voted for Al Gore.

Scared off

But the Commission will want to know:

  • why black precincts were given some of the oldest and most unreliable voting machines
  • why 27,000 black votes were disqualified in Duval County in north-eastern Florida
  • whether the Florida Highway Patrol scared some people into not voting by setting up checkpoints near polling stations.

The Highway Patrol says it is insulted by the accusations and insists its operation was a routine effort to crack down on traffic violations.

Much of the first day will be taken up with testimony on voting procedures and equipment and ordinary people will not be able to voice their complaints until the end of the second day.

The Democratic-leaning Commission may be the most powerful Federal organisation that deals with racial discrimination, but it doesn't have any powers of enforcement.

It can only recommend changes to the President and Congress.

Black leaders have urged Mr Bush to prove that he is a President for all Americans by listening to their complaints and ensuring that there is no repeat of the Florida fiasco.

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See also:

02 Dec 00 | Americas
Florida ballot showdown
10 Nov 00 | Americas
Q and A: What went wrong in Florida?
08 Nov 00 | Americas
Florida holds key to White House
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