No Evidence of 2000 Voter Intimidation

This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume," Oct. 14, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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JOHN KERRY, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: What they did in Florida in 2000, some say they may be planning to do this year in battleground states all across this country. Well, we're here to let them know we will fight tooth and nail to make sure that this time every vote is counted and every vote counts.



BRIT HUME, HOST: It is an article of faith among Democrats that the 2000 election was stolen from them by the deliberate disenfranchisement of hundred of thousands, if not millions of voters in Florida alone. After the election, the U.S. Civil Rights Commission (search), not noted for having Republican sympathy, conducted an investigation. And what did it find?

Peter Kirsanow (search) is a Republican member of the commission. He joins me now from Cleveland.

Mr. Kirsanow, welcome and thank you for joining us.


HUME: Tell me about the Civil Rights Commission's inquiries into Florida 2000.

KIRSANOW: It was a six-month investigation into a number of allegations pertaining to: voter intimidation, harassment, and disenfranchisement, much of which was alleged to have been intentional. In addition, activists had claimed that dogs and hoses were being used to prevent blacks from going to the polls and casting a vote.

It was a fairly intensive investigation. And what it revealed was that thousands of ballots were, in fact, spoiled by voters. But there was no evidence whatsoever of: voter intimidation, any voter does enfranchisement, intentional or harassment. Mistakes were made mainly by voters and there were some glitches in the balloting. But allegations or insinuations that there was somehow some type of sinister effort to disenfranchise people is absolutely false.

What was found is that blacks were approximately — and it's difficult to tell, because obviously there is no race category on the ballots. But if you extrapolate from heavily black precincts, it would appear as if blacks were three times more likely to spoil their ballots than whites. But mistakes are not the same thing as disenfranchisement. I'll also add that the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice also conducted their own investigation. They did find three violations of the Voting Rights Act (search). The allegations and the evidence showed that the violations consisted of failure to provide bilingual ballots to some Haitian and Hispanic voters...

HUME: How many?

KIRSANOW: ... in three counties — in three counties and it is indeterminate as to how many voters didn't get it. It seems to be a handful. And in one location there was hostility by poll workers toward Hispanic voters. In each of the counties, the county supervisor and those who controlled the election process were Democrats. And that's the same — that's true for also 24-25 counties in which there was the highest ballot spoilage rate.

HUME: Talk to me about ballot spoilage. Obviously it raises questions in the minds of at least some people, when you have these allegations that ballots were spoiled and it tends to be concentrated in areas where there's a high percentage of African-American voters. What about that?

KIRSANOW: Well, it is true that — or at least it appears based on the statistical evidence there that there were more, as I indicated, ballot spoilage or higher spoilage rates in high concentration black areas. But everyone — there is no indication whatsoever that there was some type of discrepancy in terms of the machinery, the ballots themselves. And if you take a look at the correlative evidence, it would suggest that ballot spoilage relates most closely to how frequently people vote. And also in addition to that the educational or literacy levels of those who vote; it has absolutely nothing to do...

HUME: Well, I just want to ask you what the term "ballot spoilage" means? It sounds like somebody spilled a Coca Cola on their ballot, or it got stepped on, or it got torn, or it got bent. But that isn't exactly what the word means, is it?

KIRSANOW: No. What it means is that you saw, for example, the hanging chad issues, people who may have over voted by pressing or punching through two holes for a particular candidate, or proposition. Or the under votes where there was a slight perforation in the ballot, so it was impossible to actually count. That is spoiling the ballot or not casting a recordable vote.

HUME: All right. Now, the allegation is made though, that — I mean the suggestion is here that you are making, and I guess the commission found, was that this is voter error? Is that what this comes down to?

KIRSANOW: That's precisely right. It's voter error and there were some glitches in terms of getting ballots out. But those were sporadic. There was one situation in which that caused some problems. And that was the so-called Felon Purge List, where there was a list developed to prohibit the kind of fraud that had occurred in a previous election. That is, having ineligible felons vote. This list was completely inaccurate. I mean it had a number of failings to it.

And the allegations, at least the principle allegation at the outset was blacks were more likely to be placed on the list than whites. And the insinuation or the inference to be drawn from that was that this was somehow part of a scheme to disenfranchise certain types of voters. The facts are that twice as many whites were improperly placed on the ballot on the Felon Purge List as blacks. And in addition to that, as the "Miami Herald" found, approximately 6,500 ineligible voters — ineligible felons did, in fact, vote. And as they concluded, the biggest problem of the Felon Purge List was that it permitted felons to vote.

HUME: And in terms of people who might have been eligible, who were excluded because they were mistakenly on the list — last question, quickly. Roughly how many, do you know?

KIRSANOW: Don't know that. That is difficult to ascertain. There's probably...

HUME: Are we talking about hundreds or thousands, tens of thousands?

KIRSANOW: Probably in the hundred's.

HUME: All right. Mr. Kirsanow, thank you very much.

KIRSANOW: Thank you.

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