African-Americans feel weight of history amid claims of electoral fraud

Voting Irregularities
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The Independent US

Aside from the lawyers and the party grandees, there is another army pulling for Al Gore in Florida - the state's large African-American community. It is not an overt pro-Gore effort, but a drive instead to demonstrate that flaws in the US voting system penalise minorities especially.

Aside from the lawyers and the party grandees, there is another army pulling for Al Gore in Florida - the state's large African-American community. It is not an overt pro-Gore effort, but a drive instead to demonstrate that flaws in the US voting system penalise minorities especially.

Grievances over what happened on election day were overflowing at a rally at the Vision to Victory church in Miami on Saturday. For five hours, residents from all across Florida took the microphone to allege that they were denied the opportunity to vote.

The rally was called by Kweisi Mfume, the president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Mr Mfume promised to submit all the complaints gathered by the NAACP to the Attorney General, Janet Reno, for investigation.

No constituency is more sensitive than the African-American community to the flaws and fraud in the election process that might threaten a person's right to vote. It is swelled in southern Florida especially by a big community of Haitian-Americans, many of whomcame to the United States in open boats searching for democracy.

"We have come to southern Florida to help establish a public record," said Mr Mfume, sitting high on a stage beneath a long red and white banner. "It's clear that in the absence of this process, that might not take place."

There were gasps in the hall when Mr Mfume gave the stage first to a Miami police officer, who revealed that two unopened ballot boxes had been found on Friday; one in a church and another in a room in the Sheraton Hotel. Only later did word come from election officials that the boxes probably contained nothing more suspicious than polling station supplies.

Voters told of repeated difficulties in trying to vote. Some were turned away when their names were not on voter rolls. Others said that when they realised they had voted for the wrong candidate, workers refused to give them new ballot papers. There were also complaints of white police swarming around the stations, sending some voters back to their homes.

Donnise DeSouza waited until 6.30pm last Tuesday to go to the polls so that she could pick up her son after work and take him with her. "I wanted him to witness the democratic process," the 36-year-old Miami attorney told a hushed crowd at a church community centre on Saturday.

After waiting 20 minutes to park, she finally got to the registration table, only to be told her name was not on the list. She was told to stand aside and wait with about 15 other people, and they were all finally told that they would not be allowed to vote. "Then I had to explain it to my five-year-old son, and he couldn't understand," she said, near to tears.

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