Mary Frances Berry: no racism in Florida Presidential vote

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Fri Jan 12 11:16:47 MST 2001

"I would not conclude that there has been any kind of conspiracy, or
somebody who sat down somewhere in a room and said, 'Let's keep these
people from getting to the polls,'" she said.

--former Pacifica head Mary Frances Berry, on the Florida elections
controversy. [Mary Frances Berry was the Clinton bureaucrat who unleashed
the attack on free speech radio from her position as chairperson of the
Pacifica board.]


Florida Election Hearings Begin
By Dara Kam
Associated Press Writer
Thursday, Jan. 11, 2001; 4:43 p.m. EST

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A black minister claimed he was purged from the voter
rolls because he was mistakenly branded a felon. A black woman said she
encountered an Election Day roadblock manned by white state troopers.

Those were among the accounts given Thursday on the opening of a two-day
hearing held by the U.S. Civil Rights Commission to investigate allegations
of voting irregularities in Florida.

Also testifying Thursday, Gov. Jeb Bush told the commission that he has no
plans to order his own investigation because two probes are already under way.

The results of the Nov. 7 election were contested for more than a month
until Bush's brother George W. Bush finally captured Florida's 25 electoral
votes, and thus the White House. Some voters have argued that blacks and
others in Florida were systematically deprived of their right to vote.

The Rev. Willie D. Whiting said he was told he could not vote because he
had been purged from the system and stripped of his civil rights.

"I was slingshotted into slavery," said Whiting, 50. He said the only time
he had been in court was when he served as a federal juror.

Roberta Tucker, a 49-year-old state employee, said she was intimidated when
five white Highway Patrol officers stopped her about two miles from her
polling place in Woodville, near Tallahassee, and asked for her driver's

"It was an election day and a big election, and there were only white
officers there," she said. "It was suspicious to me."

Patrol officials said later the checkpoint was a short-term,
spur-of-the-moment road-safety measure, unauthorized by higher officers but
not intended to scare anyone away from the polls.

The hearing will also address complaints of outdated election equipment in
poor precincts and non-English speakers who had no help casting their votes.

The Florida governor can order a probe of the irregularities but told the
panel he doesn't see a need for one.

"I was confident that with the (Florida) Attorney General investigation
ongoing and the Department of Justice investigation ongoing, those were the
proper officials to deal with these issues," Bush said.

Bush also pointed to a task force he appointed to look at a variety of
election issues.

He said that Florida's secretary of state and the 67 county election
supervisors were responsible for carrying out voting in the state and that
he had no indication beforehand that there would be problems.

"It seems to me we should have a consistent standard across the state so we
don't see those agonizing pictures of volunteers and officials with what
appeared to be painful, excruciating expressions on their face trying to
determine the will of the voter," he said.

Mary Frances Berry, chairwoman of the eight-member panel, said she did not
know of an investigation by the U.S. Justice Department.

The commission has subpoena and investigatory powers but cannot apply
specific remedies. It will issue an initial report within 60 days and send
its recommendations to Congress and the president this summer, Berry said.

She said that she doesn't believe anyone organized an effort to keep
minorities from voting, though there might have been "invidious

"I would not conclude that there has been any kind of conspiracy, or
somebody who sat down somewhere in a room and said, 'Let's keep these
people from getting to the polls,'" she said.
On the Net:
American Civil Liberties Union of Florida:
People for the American Way:
Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law:
© Copyright 2001 The Associated Press

Louis Proyect
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