Addressing voting rights issues has been a core responsibility for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights since the Commission was founded in 1957. The Commission has broad authority over voting rights. It has general jurisdiction to examine allegations regarding the right of U.S. citizens to vote and to have their votes counted. These allegations may include, but are not limited to, allegations of discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, age, disability, or national origin.
Pursuant to its authority, and fulfilling its obligations, members of the Commission staff conducted a preliminary investigation and discovered widespread allegations of voter disenfranchisement in Florida in the 2000 presidential election. The Commissioners voted unanimously to conduct an extensive public investigation into these allegations of voting irregularities. Toward that end, the Commission held three days of hearings in Miami and Tallahassee and, using its subpoena powers, collected more than 30 hours of testimony from more than 100 witnesses—all taken under oath—and reviewed more than 118,000 pages of pertinent documents.
The Commission carefully selected its subpoenaed witnesses to ensure that it heard testimony on the wide range of issues that had come to light during its preliminary investigation. The Commission also acted to ensure that it heard a broad spectrum of views. It subpoenaed a cross section of witnesses, including Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, members of Governor Bush’s Select Task Force on Election Procedures, Standards and Technology, and Florida’s attorney general. The Commission staff’s research also led it to subpoena the state official responsible for oversight of motor voter registration, the general counsel for Florida’s Elections Commission, the director of the Division of Elections (part of the secretary of state’s office), the director of Florida’s Highway Patrol, and numerous local elections officials, county supervisors, poll workers, and local