The majority of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission -- that is, the six Democrats (there are two Republican appointees) -- has shamed itself on many levels.
Somehow, a draft report on Florida's conduct of the 2000 election was leaked to three liberal newspapers, The New York Times, The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times a day before the non-Democrat members of the commission had been sent copies. By law, all commissioners are entitled to 30 days to review reports and make suggestions or amendments.
One of the Republican appointees, Russell Redenbaugh, is blind. He could not possibly have had the entire 190-page report read to him in just three days. Interested parties, like Gov. Jeb Bush, are also supposed to be given an opportunity to comment before the report is finalized.
You may ask: How did the Civil Rights Commission get six members appointed by a Democrat and only two by a Republican, when it is supposed to be balanced between the two parties? Simple. Two of the commissioners, including chairman Mary Frances Berry (donor to Al Gore and Hillary Clinton), changed their voter registrations to independent. That's the way they play this game.
But it was not just procedural shenanigans that disgraced the commission last week. The report itself is dishonest to the core.
Recall that the commission held hearings in Florida to determine whether there was any truth to rumors of racial bias in the conduct of the election or any organized attempt to discourage or prevent black citizens from voting. One need not be a genius to figure out that if even one black voter had been turned away from the polls on illegitimate grounds, we would have heard of it by now. The NAACP, the ACLU and the entire Jesse Jackson traveling circus would have broadcast the outrage with megawatt megaphones and lawsuits would have followed.
But, as Republican commissioner and author of "America in Black and White" Abigail Thernstrom explains, there was not a single witness before the commission who could testify that he or she had been prevented from voting on racial grounds.
The report bases its conclusions -- that blacks were "disenfranchised" by the state of Florida -- on "baseless accusations, faulty reasoning, and unsupported conclusions" (the words are from Jeb Bush's lawyer). The report complains that patrol cars were seen in the vicinity of polling places "arguably in direct violation of Florida election law." But as the commissioners know, because they heard undisputed evidence to this effect from the director of the Florida Highway Patrol, troopers did not visit polling places except to exercise their own right to vote.
The report uses statistics to imply conspiracy where none is evident. "If you live in a county with a substantial African American or minority population, your chance of having your vote spoiled or discounted is higher than the average for the rest of Florida." This makes it sound as if someone in Gov. Bush's office was selectively dropping valid ballots down the memory hole based upon race.
In fact, there are many possible explanations for why ballots from majority black precincts were more often "spoiled." Forty percent of black voters in Florida were first-time voters in 2000. Their error rate is higher. Also, the county with the highest illiteracy rate also had the highest percentage of spoiled ballots. Additionally, the NAACP, as part of its get out the vote campaign, instructed voters to vote on every page, thereby unintentionally contributing to the spoiled ballots.
Before the commission began its "investigation," Mary Frances Berry stated that Al Gore should have won the election. She is now hoping, for the narrowest partisan ends, to gin up further black outrage by granting to Democrat-inspired rumors the imprimatur of a prestigious government body.
In 1964, only 6.4 percent of blacks in Mississippi were registered to vote. Disenfranchisement used to happen in America -- and it was a disgrace. But to use the same word to apply to a higher rate of "spoiled ballots" among black Floridians is also a disgrace. It only exacerbates the sense of alienation and unjustified anger blacks already feel. Besides, it's a lie.