- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 19, 2001

Attorneys for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights are seeking to quash a dissent on a contentious report on the presidential election in Florida last year, say sources at the commission.
The dissent signed by commissioners Abigail Thernstrom and Russell Redenbaugh, written as a response to the commission majority's 188-page report on purported civil rights violations during last fall's protracted presidential contest, violated commission statutes because it used information from a volunteer, commission member Cruz Reynoso said this week.
"I don't refer to it as a dissent, I call it a separate statement," Mr. Reynoso said. "It won't stand. It wasn't presented in the proper format and it violates the law by using voluntary help. I think it is clear that this statement was based on some folks who did a study for the dissenting commissioner, then attached a study done by a volunteer."
Although Mr. Reynoso had asked at last week's monthly meeting that the dissent be omitted from the record as a commission work, his colleagues voted against the request. Instead, they referred the matter for review to general counsel Edward Hailes Jr.
The dissent does not appear on the commission's Web site, where the majority report is posted.
Mr. Reynoso said Mrs. Thernstrom failed to acquaint herself with commission statutes before compiling information for the dissent.
"Our commissioner, who is very bright, either didn't take the time or was unwilling to educate herself on the statutes," Mr. Reynoso said.
The statute reads: "The Commission shall not accept or utilize services of voluntary or uncompensated personnel This limitation shall apply with respect to services of members of the commission as it does with respect to services by other persons."
Research for the dissent was performed at no cost by John Lott Jr., an economist at Harvard Law School.
Mrs. Thernstrom responded: "If the commission and its staff were aware themselves of that statutory provision, why didn't they bring it to my attention before last Friday?"
"It would not violate the law if it is not part of the report," Mr. Reynoso said. "She can do anything she wants to individually, but she can't publish this as part of the commission."
The report castigated Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris and Gov. Jeb Bush for failing to properly oversee an election that, according to the report, disenfranchised thousands of black voters.
The dissent, though, concludes that voter error was to blame for many of the votes that were not counted during the six-week legal battle that followed the election.
To bolster that contention, the dissent cited data assembled and formulated by Mr. Lott. He contended he did his work as part of a civic duty to inform the public of what actually happened in the Florida election.
"This censorship seems outrageous to me, and I would think it would embarrass the commission to do this," said Mr. Lott, who is best known for his studies supporting gun rights. He noted that while he made his mathematical equations and data available for public scrutiny, those who wrote the majority opinion did not. "My understanding is that they are not going to allow any references to my work in the dissent."
Mrs. Thernstrom asked the commission and its staff director, Les Jin, for the statistical analysis on which the majority report based its conclusions, but they contended it was not available.
Mr. Jin and Mr. Hailes did not return calls for comment yesterday.

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