NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Counting Minority Votes

June 20, 2001

In Florida and elsewhere last November, minorities' presidential ballots were invalidated at rates significantly higher than whites' votes. However, the U.S. Civil Rights Commission investigated the incidents and found no evidence of intentional discrimination.

But it did repeat some charges that have been largely refuted -- such as the claim that blacks suffered from inferior voting equipment.

That question was addressed in a recent study by Stephen Knack and Martha Kropf, entitled "Who Uses Inferior Voting Technology." The researchers found no disparity in voting equipment used in poor and nonpoor neighborhoods -- either in Florida or nationwide.

  • They found that in Florida, 61.5 percent of those voting at polls located in areas above the poverty level had access to punch-card ballots -- less than the rate of 63.1 percent of those living in areas below the poverty line.
  • Nationally, the rate of those using punch cards was 31.8 percent of those living in areas above the poverty level -- versus 33.4 percent in areas below the poverty line.
  • As for those having access to optical scan ballots -- the rates both in Florida and throughout the U.S. were nearly identical for poor and upper-class voters.
  • Access to other voting systems -- Datavote, lever machine, paper ballots and electronic methods -- was similarly equal among rich are poor.

Experts have noted that the 2000 elections attracted many first-time black voters. And first-time voters are more likely to make mistakes on their ballots. This may explain, in part, why the ballots of so many blacks were disqualified.

Source: Jackie Calmes, "Report on 2000 Vote Fuels Debate Clouded by Ambiguities," Wall Street Journal, June 11, 2001.


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