Civil Rights Groups Examine Election

Mission Specialist Lisa Nowak is pictured outside the Space Shuttle Discovery after it's arrival at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., at the completion of mission STS-121, July 17, 2006. Nowak, 43, was arrested Monday, Feb. 5, 2007, for attempting to kidnap a woman she believed was romantically involved with another astronaut she was in love with, police said. AP Photo/Robert Sullivan

Civil rights groups vowed to fight for the voting rights of blacks in future elections, after what they dubbed the "wake-up call" of the 2000 presidential election.

"We are going to be deputized to protect voting rights over the next four years in particular," said Rev. Walter Fauntroy, a former District of Columbia delegate who convened an event Thursday, advertised as a "national emergency summit" on the election.

Organizers contended that minorities nationwide were targeted in the Nov. 7 election for "voting while black."

The term is a reference to "driving while black," by which, civil rights groups contend, some police officers stop black drivers more often than whites because of racist attitudes.

Thursday's event, held at Howard University, featured a report by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which has gathered more than 450 complaints from people who say they were blocked from voting in Florida and elsewhere on Nov. 7.

"Almost as soon as the polls opened, we began to receive calls from all over the nation of voter irregularities," said Angela Ciccolo, the NAACP's assistant general counsel.

She said the NAACP's phones "have not stopped ringing since November 7."
Some Polling Problems Reported To The NAACP
  • Old and malfunctioning machines
  • Ill-prepared elections workers
  • Registered voters' names improperly purged from voting lists
  • Democratic voters who were told they couldn't vote until Nov. 8
  • Fliers with graphic images of lynchings, Confederate flags and derogatory language
  • Non-English-speaking Haitian voters who were not given required language assistance


  • Ciccolo said the group has received hundreds of reports of polling problems in minority precincts.

    In one instance, Ciccolo said, a school building serving as a polling place was demolished before the election, but elections officials didn't tell voters where the new polling place was.

    "They showed up to vote and there was no place to vote," Ciccolo said.

    Rep. Earl Hilliard, D-Ala., a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, said an estimated 300,000 votes were not counted nationwide. As many as 60 percent were those of minority voters, he said.

    Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has been called to appear next week in Tallahassee, Fla., before a U.S. Commission on Civil Rights inquiry into Florida's presidential election.

    The commission will hold hearings into whether Floridians' voting rights were violated, after complaints were made to the Department of Justice by the Rev. Jesse Jackson and others alleging that some black voters were denied access to the polls.

    Several groups, as well as dozens of black membrs of Congress, have alleged that black voters were kept from the polls in Florida and other states on Election Day, and ballots of others were systematically discarded.

    Exit polls showed that nine out of 10 blacks voted for Vice President Al Gore rather than Republican George W. Bush.

    Many Gore supporters believed manual recounts of ballots in disputed Florida precincts would give him the nationwide victory, but the U.S. Supreme Court halted the recounts Dec. 12. Florida's 25 electoral votes gave Bush the presidency.

    A federal judge on Thursday denied a request by two District of Columbia voters to stop Congress from recognizing Florida's slate of presidential electors. The lawsuit alleged that Florida election officials disenfranchised tens of thousands of blacks on Election Day by making it difficult for them to vote.

    Jackson has promised demonstrations in the days leading up to the inauguration and is to appear in a Jan. 20 rally in Tallahassee. Protests are also scheduled in Chicago and other cities.


    • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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